Many toted the Heat as title contenders after their offseason Kyle Lowry trade. Now that he’s missed seven games this postseason and the Heat are undefeated in those games, one has to wonder if the Heat even need him to contend.
In the 2021 offseason, the former Raptors floor general was traded to South Beach for Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa. He was expected to bring more veteran leadership alongside Jimmy Butler and hopefully help take the Heat back to the NBA Finals.
His “veteran presence” is there, but his body is not. And it doesn’t matter at all.
The Heat are still winning playoff basketball games and hold a one game advantage over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. While their opponents this postseason have been weak, the Heat have taken care of business so far and looked every bit like true title contenders.
Despite his injury, Kyle Lowry is still coaching up his teammates on the sidelines 👏 pic.twitter.com/OZxj6fTI8t— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 24, 2022
Can the Heat beat the Celtics and get back to the Finals? They might have to do it without Lowry, but there are other components to this team that make them a bad matchup for anybody.
Jimmy Butler is a Different Guy in the Playoffs
Don’t be fooled by Butler’s middling regular season numbers. Playoff Jimmy Butler feels like a different player entirely.
This playoffs, Butler has posted MVP-caliber advanced statistics that show up in the eye test. His 33.1 PER is the highest among players that average over 10 minutes per game. His .327 win shares per 48 and 12.9 box plus/minus in the playoffs are the best in the NBA.
Butler also carries the reputation of being an average shooter in the regular season. However, his shooting percentages have skyrocketed in the playoffs. He went from being a 23 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season to a staggering 36 percent in the playoffs.
This, along with a 4.5 percent increase in overall field goal percentage has ballooned his 21.4 points-per-game in the regular season to an average of 28.7 points in the playoffs.
Butler’s advanced and non-advanced numbers get way better in the playoffs, but it’s his intangible characteristics that make him a real threat in the postseason. Butler is a true leader of men, and the self belief he shows on the court is the basis for the #HEATCulture that emanates through this Miami team.
Jimmy Butler went off for 41 points on 63% from the field, while serving up a lockdown performance on the defensive end with 4 steals and 3 blocks! #HEATCulture@JimmyButler: 41 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL, 3 BLK— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2022
💎 Game 2: Thursday, 8:30pm/et on ESPN 💎 pic.twitter.com/NRyZEmctuL
He’s been here before. His team is more experienced at closing out playoff games than any singular player on the Boston Celtics.
More importantly, Butler’s squad has done this together before. They understand where their strengths are, and their leader knows how to win with this group.
Heat Have the Depth to Deal With a Kyle Lowry Injury
The Miami Heat have a bench like no other. And it was compiled with almost no draft picks of their own.
Here is a list of Miami’s formerly undrafted players currently listed on their roster:
- Duncan Robinson
- Udonis Haslem
- Dewayne Dedmon
- Gabe Vincent
- Max Strus
- Omer Yurtseven
- Caleb Martin
- Haywood Highsmith
- Javonte Smart
- Mychal Mulder
When an organization uses zero assets sign its role players, it becomes extremely easy to field a competent bench unit that can fill vital roles just as well as players that would have to be drafted and developed or acquired in a trade.
While Boston’s payroll may be more expensive and have players of a higher draft pedigree, Miami has found ways to produce similar results with less talent. These undrafted players take on an “underdog” mentality when combined with the mentorship of Butler and Lowry, giving the Heat an “eff you” attitude towards any outsiders.
This mentality has lead Heat players to embrace Kyle Lowry’s injury as adversity that they must overcome together. Most of these guys play as if they have nothing to lose, because as undrafted players they are essentially playing with house money.
Boston will need to find a way to match that intensity in order to beat the Heat. But until then, and even with a Kyle Lowry injury, the Miami Heat are much more than a “tough out.”