Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat fell just short of reaching the NBA Finals last season. Literally.
With 16.6 seconds left and the Heat down two to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Butler pulled up for a 3-pointer and watched along with the rest of the country as it clanged off the front rim.
Jaylen Brown came down with the rebound, Marcus Smart hit a pair of free throws and just like that, Miami’s season came to an end.
Butler and the Heat will get a fresh reminder of that frustrating finish when they host the Celtics on Friday night.
Miami opened this season with another difficult night, falling 116-108 to the visiting Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
Despite getting 24 points from Butler, 23 from Tyler Herro and 22 off the bench from Max Strus, Miami collapsed in the third quarter, getting outscored 37-27. DeMar DeRozan torched the Heat for 37 points and led Chicago to a win despite the absences of teammates Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball.
“It’s the first game of the year. We’re just still trying to figure out things,” Strus said. “We’ll watch the film and get better from it.”
The Heat are going to have to get better from those film sessions if they want to beat a Boston team that is coming off an impressive 126-117 win against Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Jayson Tatum and Brown each scored 35 points, combining to make 27 of 44 field goal attempts (61.4 percent). The Celtics shot 56.1 percent from the floor, committed only 11 turnovers and looked nothing like a team that recently lost its head coach for the season.
Interim coach Joe Mazzulla picked up his first win directing the ship, and he’s hungry for more success as the season progresses.
“It was a proud moment, I think starting with the Bill Russell ceremony and just talking to the team about the legacy he left on and off the court and the responsibility we carry to be able to hold that and build our own legacy,” Mazzulla said. “We picked up right where we left off.
“I pride myself in the Boston fans and the city of Boston, and when they’re cheering for you, it means you’re doing something right.”
If the Heat are going to slow down Tatum and Brown, Butler knows that they need to take more pride in their defense.
“We just got to guard. At the end of the day, that’s what it is,” Butler said. “We definitely got to communicate and be on the same page, and through everything — win, lose, tie — we’re in this thing together.”
The Heat ruled out guard Victor Oladipo, who also missed Wednesday’s opener against Chicago with a left knee injury. Miami also said center Omer Yurtseven (left ankle) will be out.
–Field Level Media