Jimmy Butler is undeniably the protagonist of the 2023 NBA Playoffs and the Miami Heat continue to benefit from its star’s heroics. The forward’s 35-point night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals made the difference as Miami put away the heavily favored Boston Celtics 123-116 on the road to begin the series.

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As the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference that had to earn its spot through the play-in tournament, the Heat was on very few people’s radars when the postseason began. The team has been seemingly unstoppable despite low expectations, however, defeating the first-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and fourth-seeded New York Knicks in six games each.

Though Butler didn’t play quite as well against New York as he did against Milwaukee, against which he scored a practically inhuman 37.6 points per game, he still led the charge on the floor through all four of Miami’s wins. Around him, his teammates have been shooting extremely well and continued to do so in Game 1 against Boston.

With Butler returning to his Milwaukee-series form with 35 points against the Celtics, five of his teammates also managed to score at least 15 points each. It’s not a one-man show, but it’s also very difficult to imagine Miami getting this far without Butler’s immaculate performances.

“Damn right, I did,” Butler said when asked if he thought his team was capable of a run before the playoffs. “Damn right, we did. And the best part about it is we still don’t care what none of y’all think … We don’t care if you pick us to win.”

With one victory over the Celtics, who were competing well before caving in the third quarter, the question again becomes whether Miami’s star can propel them past another favored opponent. Boston has struggled in two straight series, going to six and seven games against both the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, respectively. That being said, the team entered the playoffs as a legitimate title contender led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon.

In the face of another multifaceted Eastern Conference favorite, Butler and the Heat have once again gotten the jump in a series many believed they could not win. The road ahead is long but the team has not yet struggled to put teams away in crunch time.

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