Jimmy Butler had every reason to gloat. The ex-76ers forward was booed virtually every time he touched the ball, but neither that nor the Sixers’ previously undefeated home record fazed him Wednesday.
On a night Butler didn’t have to dominate, he and the Heat defeated the Sixers, 108-104, at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers became the last NBA team to lose at home. They will carry a 20-9 record and 14-1 home mark when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Miami stymied the Sixers with a zone defense. The Heat unveiled the zone in the second quarter and used it for most of the rest of the game.
“We threw a zone in there and it worked well for us, but let’s not pretend they didn’t miss some shots that they can make, that they made at the end of the game,” Butler said. “We’ll take a couple of misses and got some rebounds and got ourselves up the floor part of the game. I like it. We did what we said we were going to do.”
The Sixers appeared frustrated when the Heat went to the zone, unable to attack it successfully. Butler again gave his former team a pass.
“I wouldn’t say it was frustration,” he said. “When they get back and watch the film, they will pay attention to the mistakes they made, the stuff they missed. They just missed some shots, we got the long rebounds, but that is part of the game. It is a game of runs.”
This was Butler’s second game this season in Philadelphia. The Sixers beat the Heat, 113-86 on Nov. 23. As for getting revenge and being able to quiet the Sixers fans, Butler was having none of that conversation.
“Oh man, we just play to win,” Butler said. “There ain’t no get-back. There is none of that.”
What made the win more impressive is that Butler didn’t have a dominating game. He is now averaging a team-high 20.9 points. Nobody on the Heat handles the ball more than Butler.
He finished with 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting in 33 minutes, 46 seconds. In fact, when the Heat built their biggest lead, 99-83 with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter, Butler wasn’t even in the game.
He did hit a key jumper and two free throws down the stretch as the Heat were doing all they could to hold off the Sixers.
“We have a team full of guys who can score, full of guys who can defend, can get everybody else involved,” Butler said. “It is a nice team. We are playing well.”
Miami is now 20-8 and while the Heat weren’t mentioned as an Eastern Conference contender in the preseason, they are making believers.
In the NBA the prevailing theory is that the key to success is having at least two stars. Miami has been described as having one star (Butler) and everyone else.
“This is a team of one star. Who is that, Bam,” Butler said referring to emerging Heat forward Bam Adebayo, who had 23 points and nine rebounds in the win. “I will take it and will take Bam as our star any day.”
Then Butler addressed the so-called star system.
“I am not worried about what anybody says,” Butler said. “We are continuing [being] who we are.”
What they are is one of the most improved teams in the NBA after going 39-43 and missing the playoffs last year, and Bulter, despite not dominating against the Sixers, has been the major reason for the turnaround.