Butler shines but Heat fall again in Philly as series now even at 2-2

Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers' Danny Green during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Sunday, May 8, 2022, in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Danny Green during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Sunday, May 8, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AP

The Miami Heat’s playoff series with Philadelphia is knotted at 2-2. The numbers that explain why are 3 and 1.

3: The 3-point shots that aren’t falling for Miami, a season-long strength that has suddenly betrayed the Heat.

1: The players who are showing up for the Heat the past two games. Jimmy Butler. That’s pretty much it.

The result was Sunday night’s 116-108 Game 4 Heat loss at the 76ers — despite Butler’s game-high 40 points and because of, to a huge degree, Miami’s beyond-abysmal 7-for-35 shooting from beyond the arc.

Those would be pretty dreadful 3-point numbers for a junior-high team. They are simply unfathomable, on this stage, with these stakes, for a Heat team that was No. 1 in the NBA in 3’s during the regular season.

How pivotal has Game 4 been in Heat history?

Miami with a 3-1 series lead is 14-0 all-time in the postseason. Never lost. Never blew such an advantage.

Now it is more of a dice roll for Miami at 2-2; the Heat is then only 9-8 in going or to advance.

That is what Sunday night meant as the series returns to Miami.

The Heat fought all season to earn the No. 1 overall playoff seed in the NBA’s tightly bunched Eastern Conference.

This is why it matters. Now is why. Now is when they need it.

Now, the home floor in the arena off Biscayne Boulevard, where three championship parades have passed, is being counted on as the difference between title hopes living on or dying.

That is what a 2-2 Eastern semi-final series with Philly feels like now.

Like the Heat are desperate for help beyond Butler, so maybe the home fans can step up?

Starting Tuesday night two of the last three games including a possible Game 7 are back in Miami. It is the Heat’s ace, its remaining edge, now that the return from injury of Sixers MVP candidate Joel Embiid has leveled everything.

The city of Miami’s nickname was “the Magic City,” once, because during the population boom the place was said to have grown like magic. Disney and Orlando sort of stole the nickname, but whatever magic is left, the Heat could maybe use some?

It cannot be overstated how dreadful Miami’s shooting (beyond Butler) has been in the past two losses, especially on the bread-and-butter 3s..

It was 8-for-30 in Game 3. Sunday made it a two-game total of 17-for-65

Philly was 16-of-33 on 3’s Sunday, that alone a 27-point difference in a game decided by eight.

Neither can t be overstated how great Butler has been in these two losses. Or how alone.

He had 33 points in Game. Sunday made it 73 the past two. Epic stuff from him. His 17 of him in the third quarter Sunday almost single-handedly kept Miami in the game.

Yes, Bam Adebayo had 21 Sunday on 9-for-12 shooting, much better than in Game 3, but there simply hasn’t been a great offensive option to Butler. Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro scored 11 on 4-for-12 shooting (1-for-5 from 3).

Meanwhile the Sixers had six in double figures led by James Hardens’ 31 and Embiid’s 24.

Dewayne Dedmon was out with an illness (non-COVID) and the Heat really missed the 7-footer off the bench as a big to help with Embiid. It cut into Miami’s rotation and depth, which is counted on as a team strength. And it forced Markieff Morris to be deployed for the first time since November. Not good.

Now the series returns to Miami relying on the home crowd but plainly needing help beyond that.

Help finding its missing 3-point game.

And help finding help for Jimmy Butler.

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Greg Cote is a Miami Herald sports columnist who in 2021 was named top 10 in column writing by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Greg also hosts The Greg Cote Show podcast and appears regularly on The Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz.

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