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Miami Heat finding their footing as Jimmy Butler continues to toe the line

 Miami Heat finding their footing as Jimmy Butler continues to toe the line


MIAMI — The easiest way to tell if attack mode has been activated by Jimmy Butler is to head to the foul line.

Over the past three games, which includes the two-game winning streak the Miami Heat take into Sunday night’s matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers at Kaseya Center, Butler has gone 10 of 10, 9 of 12 and 9 of 13 from the line. By contrast, amid the Heat’s seven-game losing streak that preceded these past two wins, he had attempted eight or fewer free throws in five of the previous six games.

“We’ve lost a couple games maybe because I haven’t been as aggressive as I’m supposed to be,” Butler said after Friday night’s 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. “We’ve talked about how that has to change. And you come out and be aggressive and keep everybody on their heels, because I think if I’m playing like that, it makes everybody else’s job a lot easier.”


Everybody else agrees.


“It’s been huge,” forward Kevin Love said. “I think it’s been great for each and every one of us throughout the lineup. He’s the guy that when you establish him early, he’s always going to make the right play. He’s going to be incredibly efficient and he’s done it his whole career.


“And when he does that, it really gets himself going, gets him in attack mode, whether he’s shooting the ball, getting to the free-throw or setting up other players.”


It is an efficiency that has been there all season, with Butler shooting .502 from the field, .444 on 3-pointers and .870 from the foul line.


But while Butler has been getting to the line of late, he also has been missing, which has kept him from the holy grail of shooting percentages.


“I feel like I always play the same way,” he said. “But I will say I do have to make my foul shots. I’ve been missing a lot of those lately. What’s even crazier, if I would make them, I would be 50-40-90, I’m just saying. I’m just saying.”


Such percentages are considered the ultimate shooting trifecta, which is interesting, because while Butler is considered many things, a dead-eye shooter is not necessarily one of them.


“I don’t pay attention to it,” Butler said of the 50-40-90. “We sit and we mess around and we joke about it. I could care less.”


But the aggression very much appears to be prioritized.


“He’s been more aggressive than he was at the beginning of the season,” center Bam Adebayo said. “We know what that man can do when he’s locked in, and it feels like he’s starting to get his groove.”




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