The Miami Heat are down 2-1 in the NBA Finals and Jimmy Butler has been a big reason why. The superstar who reached another plane of existence against the Milwaukee Bucks earlier in the playoffs is nowhere to be found. It is not a recent development; Butler's scoring has taken a nosedive since he hurt his ankle against the New York Knicks in the second round. Once Miami reached the Finals his teammates stopped shooting an ungodly percentage from deep to cover for him. His struggles have become that much more apparent and his team is suffering as a result.
Regardless of context, if a guy like Butler doesn't play well on the biggest stage, he's going to become a prime target for blame afterwards. Jay Williams is of a similar mind, but didn't focus on Butler's offensive struggles during a hit on Get Up this morning. Instead he believes Butler failed his team by letting Jamal Murray run roughshod in the first half of Game 3. If Murray and Nikola Jokic are both cooking, it's over for their opponent, and Butler couldn't bother Murray like he needed to.
It's a good point. Nobody on the planet can stop Jokic but Murray is prone to bad games at the same rate most other stars are. If he's cooking then Denver is damn near impossible to guard. If he is not, things are made a lot easier. Butler's job as Murray's primary defender is not easy by any stretch of the imagination but he did manage to do a good job in Game 2, forcing the Nuggets PG into a down game that coincided with the Heat's only win so far (as noted by Williams above). He simply needs to be better.
It would be helpful if he started scoring efficiently, too. Through three games Butler has 62 points on 57 shots, which is borderline horrific. Denver is not falling for his pump fakes so he's only averaging 3.7 free throw attempts per game and he isn't getting to his spots with the same ease he did in the Eastern Conference Finals. Averaging 20 points per game on 42 percent shooting from the floor is not a winning receipe.
When that's happening and he can't stick with his man on the other end, the Heat are going to lose. They can withstand one of those two things but not both. Butler needs to step up or it'll be a long offseason filled with hearing the segment above over and over again.