Hero Baller: Jimmy Butler

“He got a piece of the elbow. People are going to say, ‘Aw, he didn’t foul him,’ but he did. So at the end of the day, the refs made the right call.”—Jimmy Butler

In the end, Jimmy Butler made everyone very happy, doing something he has practiced since he was teenager.

Game-ending free throws with the game on the line.

It’s what we all do, when we are not shooting counting our own last-second shot down from “3, 2, 1 …”

Only Butler does these things for real.

With an NBA game on the line and his Chicago Bulls down to the Boston Celtics, 103-102, Butler gets two free throws for the win, after Celtic guard Marcus Smart fouled Butler on the shooting elbow on a turnaround jumper taken with 0.9 seconds left on the clock.

Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

“Everyone knows Chicago is where I want to be.”—Butler

If Butler makes ’em both, the home team goes home happy, and the road team, who is rumored to be pursuing Butler in a trade, goes home perhaps more inspired to deal.

If Butler makes ’em both, his fellow All-Star road travelers get to catch the next flight out of town and hopefully arrive in New Orleans at a more decent hour.

If Butler makes ’em both, the TNT “Inside The NBA” crew get their show rolling at normal time and won’t have their All-Star festivities cut short because of an overtime game.

As the last contest of all games before the NBA All-Star break, Butler has the spotlight squarely on him and pressure coming from all angles.

Miss ’em both, the Bulls lose.

Make one of two, everything and everybody gets delayed as the game heads into overtime.

But when you are All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler—an 87-percent free-throw shooter and your team has already made 20-of-20 free throws on the day—there is only one end result.

SWISH! SWISH!!

Makes them both. Bulls win, 104-103.

Butler is the TNT hero, scoring a game-high 29 points after going 9-for-9 at the free throw line (for what it’s worth, Celtic guard Isaiah Thomas also had 29), doling out 7 assists and committing only 1 turnover, while logging a +9 plus-minus score.

The Bulls edge ever so closely back toward the .500 mark, capping 70 percent of the regular season with a 28-29 record, with a fine victory collected over the ever-improving Celtics, who are now 37-20.

And All-Star 2017 now has officially begun, with Butler serving up the end to a fun first half of the season.

Player MIN +/- PTS (TSP) 2FG 3FG FT REB AST/TO STL & BLK
Jimmy Butler 40 +9 29 (.605) 7-15 2-5 9-9 4 7/1 0 & 1

 

Key: MIN minutes; +/- plus-minus; PTS points; TSP true shooting percentage; 2FG 2-point field goals and attempts; 3FG 3-point field goals and attempts; FT free throws and attempts; REB rebounds; AST/TO assists/turnovers; STL & BLK steals and blocks.