NBA

Butler still convinced he can take Heat to an NBA championship

By Sports Desk June 13, 2023

Jimmy Butler still believes he can lead the Miami Heat to NBA championship glory despite his team falling short in a 4-1 series defeat to the Denver Nuggets.

The Denver Nuggets became NBA champions for the first time after a tense 94-89 win over Miami in Game 5 on Monday.

Miami, just the second No. 8 seed out of a conference to reach the NBA Finals, made the Nuggets work for the clinching win. They held a seven-point halftime lead and were 89-88 ahead inside the last two minutes.

But the Nuggets, boosted by another monster performance from NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic, rallied to end the franchise's long championship drought.

Butler has been with the Heat for four seasons and lost out in the NBA Finals twice – with the Los Angeles Lakers triumphant in six games back in 2020 on his previous attempt to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy – but the six-time All-Star, who is three months from turning 34, remains optimistic.

"It's been great," Butler said to ESPN about his four seasons with the Heat. 

"I've had some helluva teammates come through and compete with me and give us the opportunity to win a championship, which I still believe, with everything in me, that we will do as a team here, as an organisation, as a city in Miami.

"I'm just grateful. I learned so much from this group. They taught me so much. I wish I could have got it done for these guys, because they definitely deserve it."

Coach Erik Spoelstra accepted the Nuggets were worthy winners but spoke with pride about his team's achievements in a dramatic season.

Miami almost lost to the Chicago Bulls during the second game of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament before their sensational run to the Finals, beating the No.1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks and championship favourites the Boston Celtics.

"There's no regrets on our end," Spoelstra said. "There's just sometimes where you get beat, and Denver was the better basketball team in this series. 

"Those last three or four minutes felt like a scene out of a movie. Two teams in the ring throwing haymaker after haymaker, and it's not necessarily shot making, it's the efforts.

"I don't know how long it would take me to go through the autopsy of this final game, but I would say that it will probably rank as our hardest, competitive, most active defensive game of the season, and it still fell short.

"You have to tip your hat to them. They are one hell of a basketball team. They play the right way, they compete, they are well-coached and they have a strong culture. 

"So for this season, they deserve this."

Jokic capped a sensational postseason by sparking Denver's comeback from a 10-point second-quarter deficit. The Serbian star finished with 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting along with 16 rebounds. 

Butler ended with 21 points for Miami, while Bam Adebayo compiled 20 points and 12 rebounds but managed just two points in the second half.

Center Adebayo echoed the pride of Butler and Spoelstra when he looked at what had been achieved.

"You take the experience of this season, and if you can just bottle that up and everybody just have their own portion or rewritten story of it, the No. 1 thing, I think, would be will," he said. 

"So looking forward, I think this is one of my favourite teams I've ever been a part of because we willed our way through ups and downs.

"We willed our way through the things that people said we couldn't do."

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