The bombast has been stripped.
No, this was a different Jimmy Butler, more of an introspective Jimmy Butler as he spoke in the wake of Saturday’s humbling home loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat’s third loss of the week.
No, it wasn’t Butler saying he wasn’t good enough or that his team wasn’t good enough, even as the Heat fell to 12-15. But it was Butler acknowledging that it might be time to take stock at this intersection of expectations and reality.
“I shouldn’t say I’m not worried,” he said, with the Heat opening a four-game trip Monday night against the Indiana Pacers. “I don’t think that’s the right terminology for it. We show flashes of what we can be and who we are. It’s just, damn, whenever we get away from that, it looks bad.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and everybody has to be better, one through however many people we’ve got on this roster, and figure out a way to win these games, whether it be home, away, no matter what the opposing team’s record is, no matter who we’re playing.”
The last three losses have come against a Memphis Grizzlies team that rested its starters, a Detroit Pistons team at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and a Spurs team at the bottom of the West.
Butler, who is coming off a 30-point performance against the Spurs, said the Heat have to move beyond the notion that they need only put their foot on the gas when necessary, particularly against teams with less-than-elite records. It was a point, Butler said, that captain Udonis Haslem emphasized after Saturday’s loss.
“I would just say we think we’re that good that we’ll figure it out at the end,” he said, “and not do right the entire game, the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter. Like I think U.D. said it best, we ain’t that good. We can’t afford to play a 45-minute game, or a 47-minute game. We need all 48. And, hell, if we go into overtime we need to play well in overtime, too. And do everything the right way.
“I think that’s what it is. We think we have talent, which we know that we have. And we think that’s just going to do it for us. That’s not the formula here.”
Saturday, the Heat allowed the Spurs to shoot .530 from the field. In Tuesday night’s loss to the visiting Pistons, the Heat allowed Detroit to shoot .463 on 3-pointers.
“I think it’s because we think we can score with the best of ‘em, everybody,” Butler said. “We got guys that can put the ball in the basket. I think we just get so caught up – if we’re making or missing shots, or even if you’re touching the ball as many times as you want to touch it. I think that’s just part of having a lot of really good players on your team, and guys knowing that they can impact the game on the offensive side of the ball.
“I just think we got to get back to not worrying about offense, taking care of the defensive end. Because whenever we play hard on that side of the ball, and we’re getting stops and we’re getting to the open floor, everybody’s going to get the ball then, and you don’t got to worry about it. So we just got to figure out a way to get some stops.”
The homestand produced a 1-2 record. So now the problem solving goes on the road.
“That’s part of the process of this league, is sometimes going through some pain,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Hopefully this pain will drive us to a higher level. We need to get to a higher level. We need to get to a better level collectively. And that’s what I’m hoping this frustration, pain, anger, whatever adjective you want to fill in there, hopefully that drives us to a better place as we move forward.
“And there’s no better way to do it than going out on the road, where it definitely gets tougher. It’s only us. It’s only the people in this locker room right now. And only the people that get on that airplane.”
And unless the Heat sweep the trip that also includes games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and then a Spurs rematch in Mexico City, it will mean returning home still with a losing record.
“I think we got a lot of different issues and I think they’re all fixable,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “I think we’ve just got to put our minds together and get tired of losing.”