Jimmy Butler Incurs Udonis Haslem’s Wrath as Heat Reach Boiling Point
The Miami Heat can ill afford in-fighting at this stage of the season, particularly with all of the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics nipping at their heels for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Yet, that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday, with Heat star Jimmy Butler at the forefront.
Butler got into something of a fracas with Heat staple Udonis Haslem during a brutal 118-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors, one that eventually resulted in head coach Erik Spoelstra barking at Jimmy Buckets, as well. The incident highlighted the rising tension that has developed in South Beach.
The Heat have reached a boiling point. Can they use Wednesday night as a rallying cry and finish the regular season with a flurry?
Jimmy Butler and the Heat lost to a Warriors team without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green
Wednesday should have been a walk in the park for the Heat.
Miami took on a Warriors team without their star trio of Curry (nursing foot injury), Thompson, and Green in the lineup. With Golden State relying on a depleted roster and the Heat at full strength, things favored Spoelstra’s group.
However, the Warriors took it to Butler and the Heat. The two squads played a tightly-contested game through the first three quarters. But the Dubs outscored Miami 37-24 in the final period.
The Heat never looked in sync during the contest. Their typically connected defense was in scramble mode all night, as Golden State shot 51.9% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc. Miami let the struggling Andrew Wiggins get loose for 20 points in the second half. Wiggins was one of four Dubs players with at least 20 points, as Jordan Poole led the way with a 30-ball.
Frustration rightfully seeped in for the Heat. This was a game they should have won. That exasperation spilled out as part of an altercation between Butler and Udonis Haslem during a timeout in the second half.
Butler and Udonis Haslem engaged in a viral shouting match
It’s been tough sledding for Jimmy Butler lately.
Butler is playing through pain, having suffered an ankle sprain last week against the Detroit Pistons. Before that injury, he had gone through an atrocious shooting slump. The difficulties of the 2021-22 season seem to have gone to Butler’s head.
During a break in the second half of Wednesday’s game, Butler got into a back-and-forth with Erik Spoelstra. Clearly, culture guy Udonis Haslem didn’t like what Butler had to say. The Heat veteran started yelling at the six-time All-Star and even said (h/t Bill Simmons of the Ringer), “I’ll beat yo ass.”
Other Heat players separated the two men. But things didn’t cool down immediately. Butler kept yapping at Haslem, eventually prompting Spoelstra to stand up from his chair and walk toward right toward Butler. At a certain point, it became clear that Spoelstra was the more heated guy in the argument, as he gesticulated and grew red in the face while continuing to holler at his star player.
The skirmish reflects the mounting tension in Miami.
The Heat are having a hard time building momentum
Miami still stands atop the Eastern Conference standings. But the Heat have just a 1.5-game lead over the Bucks, Sixers, and red-hot Celtics. They haven’t done themselves any favors lately.
The Heat are 2-3 in their last five games while also coming off consecutive losses. Miami has also had some difficulty against tougher teams, losing to the likes of the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, and 76ers. Not to mention, Bradley Beal trade rumors have offered another distraction at the most inopportune time.
It’s possible that the Butler-Haslem-Spoelstra incident gives the Heat life. The roster is full of competitive personalities. Maybe everyone just marks it down as a disagreement and moves on.
Still, the temperature is rising in South Beach. The Heat need to remain calm and collected down the stretch.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.