Jimmy Butler and Grant WilliamsAP Photo/Michael Dwyer
It hasn’t even been a month since Dillon Brooks’ now infamous “I poke bears” comment during the Los Angeles Lakers-Memphis Grizzlies series backfired in spectacular fashion.
And somehow, Grant Williams must’ve missed (or forgotten) the lesson LeBron James taught Brooks.
Sometimes—maybe even oftentimes—poking the bear just isn’t smart.
Williams was reminded of that during the Miami Heat’s 111-105 win over the Boston Celtics. And with Boston now down 2-0 and headed to Miami, he won’t have much time to reflect on his game-changing decision to trash talk and fire up Jimmy Butler (which might be a good thing).
After drawing the old DNP-CD (did not play – coach’s decision) in the Celtics’ Game 1 loss, Williams was actually making an impact during his return to the rotation.
By the end of the game, he’d played 26 minutes, handed out two assists (including a fourth-quarter laser to Grant Williams for a dunk) and shot 4-of-6 from the field.
But emotion got the better of him after he hit his only three of the night with 6:37 left in the final period. The shot put Boston up nine. It bumped the Celtics’ win probability up to 92.2 percent, but that formula obviously doesn’t have an adjustment for Playoff Jimmy.
You can actually see the exact moment the game flipped below.
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Jimmy Butler’s reaction to Grant Williams haha pic.twitter.com/eapmbRl8zD
Look at that smirk. That’s the look of the bear contemplating its next meal. And Butler almost immediately went out and got it.
On the very next possession, Jimmy found himself isolated with Grant Williams on the wing. Every other player on the floor was either on the weakside or not looking at the play.
It was time for Butler to feast, and that’s exactly what he did. After a simple righthanded drive to the paint, Butler jump stopped, pivoted back around Williams to the left and went up for a floater. He drew the and-one, and he got right into Williams’ face.
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Things are getting heated in Boston 😳 pic.twitter.com/3lwR5jvyrg
After a double-technical on the bear and its vic… uh, Butler and Williams, the mauling was on. Butler made his freebie.
Less than a minute after the old-fashioned three-point play, Butler had Williams on an island again. This time from the opposite wing, he went right at Williams—again. He rose up over the top for what looked like an effortless five-foot floater.
A couple minutes later, with just under three to play, Butler drove Williams from the wing (again), pulled up a little earlier and hit a 15-footer that tied the game at 100.
On Miami’s next possession, he took Williams off the bounce from the top of the key and finished with a fadeaway on the baseline to give the Heat the lead.
At the next dead ball, Malcolm Brogdon entered for the metaphorically mauled Williams, but the damage had already been done.
In the 6:37 of game time between Williams’ three and the final buzzer, Miami outscored the Celtics, 24-9.
After his postgame interview on ESPN, Butler could be heard saying “There’s no way they thought that was the answer!”
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“There’s no way they thought that was the answer!”
Jimmy is fired UP 🔥 pic.twitter.com/6v4o3b2w7y
Whether he was referring directly to Williams guarding him one on one (for far too long) or the Celtics’ general approach to Game 2 is immaterial. Right now, Boston doesn’t seem to have an answer for 22.
For the last four years, Butler has arguably been the best playoff performer in the NBA. He trails only Jayson Tatum in postseason points over that stretch and is second only to Nikola Jokić in postseason wins over replacement player.
He’s in his third conference finals in four seasons with the Heat. And the group he’s leading this year features eight undrafted players.
Entering this series, the Celtics were understandably overwhelming favorites. On paper, they’re deeper and more talented.
But Butler is very much a bear. And the bear mentality and impact is hard to measure. You see it on nights like Friday, though, especially when someone’s foolish enough to poke that bear.
“I just don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to,” Butler said postgame.
“It makes me key in a lot more and it pushes that will that I have to win a lot more. It makes me smile… I do respect him… I just don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to.”
Jimmy Butler on the smack talk with Grant Williams 🗣️pic.twitter.com/HcM7VhHPNo
Of course, Boston’s not done yet. It’s a best-of-seven series, and the Celtics have been solid on the road this postseason. But Miami’s up 2-0. FiveThirtyEight‘s projection system now gives the Heat a 70 percent chance to advance.
And more important than that, Butler is playing like he smells blood.
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