After the superstar swingman dominated another postseason game -- scoring 35 points with seven assists, six steals and five rebounds in Wednesday night's 123-116 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals -- he admitted he always believed That this kind of run was possible for the eighth-seeded Heat, despite all the obstacles that came their way throughout the season.
"I did," Butler said. "Really we did. And the best part of it is we still don't care what any of you think, to be honest. We don't care if you pick us to win. We never will. We never will. We're in this locker room. Knowing the guys' team. We know that coach [Erik Spoelstra] has a lot of confidence and trust in each of us. Coach Pat [Riley] too.
"So our circle is small, but the circle has got a lot of love for each other. We build constant confidence in everybody. We go out there and we hoop and we play basketball the right way, knowing that we've always got a chance."
The Heat continue to play their best basketball in the midst of a dream playoff run that only they believed possible. After a win over the Chicago Bulls in the final Eastern Conference play-in game last month, the Heat swept the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in five games and the No. 5 seed New York Knicks in six. They now hold a 1-0 lead over the Celtics -- the team that beat them in the NBA Finals last year.
The Heat, who have won Game 1 in each of their first three series in the 2023 postseason, are thriving in an underdog role -- a feeling underscored by their torrid play last month after an up-and-down regular season.
"I would say everybody counted us out from the start that made this chip," Heat big man Bam Adebayo said. "But the adversity we've had throughout the season, the ups and downs, the games we should have won but didn't. Going into the locker room and trying to figure it out, rewrite what we did wrong, and going through that put us in this position.
"Right now I feel like we're one of the best teams in the league, like you said, because the odds made it. We all looked at each other and said, this is the second play-in game, this is our last game. Run. This is it. From there. , man, I felt like everybody bought into this desire. I felt like we wanted to win."
No one is willing to win more in the league right now than Butler. After being down by nine at halftime Wednesday, Butler helped engineer a third-quarter rally, during which Miami outscored Boston 46-25, shooting 17-for-26 from the field.
"You can't measure it," Spoelstra said of the belief Butler is bringing to the rest of the Heat's roster right now. "There's no analysis to it. Just a sense of stability in the locker room. Even when you're down to nine in the first half ... there's just a settling effect that's impossible to quantify.