The Miami Heat easily defeated the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals showdown.
After not showing up in surprising fashion in the first half of the outing, Miami hunkered down in the second half – allowing Jayson Tatum to only score eight of his 29 points over the final two quarters.
Jimmy Butler ultimately led the way for the Heat, recording 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
After the game, Butler refused to really give himself credit. Instead, he couldn’t stop raving about the one teammate of his whose game he was absolutely in love with.
“I didn’t know I would fall in love with a basketball player the way I have with PJ [Tucker],” Butler said.
Tucker had a very typical stat line on Tuesday night. He finished with five points on 2-of-5 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and one steal. His +/- on the night? +12.
There’s a reason why superstars on opposing squads are clamoring for the opportunity to have this guy on their team.
For what it’s worth, the respect between Tucker and Butler was very much reciprocated.
“He’s a pro, he really is… He does everything he needs to do to be able to be a great player, I see it every day… so when you see him come out and have games like he’s having… it makes sense.”
PJ Tucker on Jimmy Butler’s dedication. pic.twitter.com/KnwqzobCqK
— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2022
“He takes care of his body, comes in, and works on his game every day,” Tucker said of Butler.
“He does everything he needs to do to be able to be a great player.”
Butler outscored the entire Celtics squad 17-14 in the third quarter. The man is special. But having role players like Tucker around him is a big reason why he can be the superstar player that he is.
At the end of the day, Butler is something of a kooky character. Living in a closet will do that to a man. Be it for his play or his purported romantic entanglements, he gets linked to some pretty crazy headlines.
But the one thing you can always count on with Butler is him keeping it real. Whether he is naming his dumbest Heat teammate or going off on a pack of giant Serbian goons, the man is nothing if not honest.
Jayson Tatum is winning even when the Celtics are losing.https://t.co/50pUW8BwFU
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 18, 2022
So if he is praising Tucker in this fashion, you know he means it.
Can Butler and Tucker sustain their levels of high play and make a return to the NBA Finals this year?
Time will tell.