“We just made everything tough on him,” Butler said in a postgame interview with Fox Sports Florida. “He’s been on a tear lately, I will say that. But when you go up against the Heat, we always have something in our back pocket.”
Throughout his career, Butler has had a long memory. He remembers all the slights that have defined his career and has never shied away from a challenge when he feels disrespected. That’s why his performance against the Pacers shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially given that the numbers show that he consistently has given Warren problems on the defensive end.
According to Second Spectrum, Warren has scored just 22 points in 173 matchups against Butler in his career, which is tied for his fewest against any defender he’s matched up against at least 150 times.
After the game, Spoelstra downplayed the significance of Butler’s showdown with Warren, instead focusing on Butler’s overall importance to the Heat.
“Anything right now with the NBA is good,” Spoelstra said. “We need this. We need competition. So much of [Butler/Warren rivalry] was just a storyline, but who cares really? I know it was months ago, but hey we’re out here completing a season and just about on the brink of the playoffs in a global pandemic. It’s just all good right now, the fact that we’re able to do this — and if it contributes to interest because people want that storyline, so be it.”
Warren, who came into the game averaging 34.8 points per game in the bubble, gave the Heat’s defense credit after the game.
“I could tell they had a good little plan off the ball screens,” Warren said. “We’ve just got to be able to make adjustments offensively as a team. But like I said before, we had good looks. We just didn’t make them tonight. We can’t hang our heads. It’s just one game. We’ve got a lot more games to play. We’re just going to watch film, adjust and get ready for the next game.”
The Pacers will get their chance on Friday when they see the Heat again, but both teams are ready for a looming 4/5 matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With Butler back and serving as the emotional engine for the proud Heat group, they are ready for whatever happens over the next few weeks — but veteran guard Goran Dragic, who came back after missing two straight games because of an ankle injury, admitted they wanted to send a message to the Pacers on Monday night.
“Definitely,” Dragic said. “We came out from the first minute that this is going to be a really important game for us. You can see Jimmy was locked in, everybody basically, and it was a hell of a team win — we’ve beat them three times, but every time it’s going to be different. Every time we need to bring our best game and try to finish the business.”
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this story.
Source: ESPN NBA