When the NBA season returned for its final few games inside the Orlando bubble, almost everyone shared a similar prediction for how things would unfold. The Eastern Conference, common wisdom held, belonged to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks; their NBA Finals opponent would be either the LA Lakers or the LA Clippers. While LeBron James and his teammates made it to the championship round, Jimmy Butler and his Miami Heat shook things up in the East.
Heading into the NBA Finals, though, the Miami Heat aren’t simply happy to be there. In fact, Jimmy Butler sent a confident message about his team’s chances ahead of Game 1.
The Miami Heat and the LA Lakers will meet in the NBA Finals
When the NBA season began what feels like an eternity ago, LeBron James and his Lakers were supposed to be chasing a championship. The Miami Heat, however, had lower expectations.
According to a survey of the league’s general managers shared on NBA.com in October 2019, the Lakers were the third-most-popular pick to win the championship; the team was also voted as the third-best team in the Western Conference. The Miami Heat, on the other hand, finished as the seventh-place team in the Eastern Conference.
The championship, though, is decided on the court, not with a poll. In the NBA bubble, both teams have played some impressive basketball.
On their side of the bracket, the Lakers have ridden their stars to success; LeBron James and Anthony Davis have simply been an unstoppable duo. On the opposite side, the Heat have come out of nowhere to knock off the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics in back-to-back rounds. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have stolen the show, but guys like Goran Dragic and rookie Tyler Herro have also pitched into what has been a true team effort.
Jimmy Butler sends a confident message about his team’s chances
On paper, the NBA Finals seems to have a clear storyline: the LA Lakers are supposed to be here while the scrappy Miami Heat came out of nowhere to earn a shot at the title. Jimmy Butler, however, believes the series is more equal than that.
“A really good team,” the forward explained during media day when asked how he views the Miami Heat, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “That’s it. A really good team. Not going to say that we’re any better than anybody else, but I just don’t think that we’re underdogs. I don’t.”
The forward also explained that the Heat aren’t concerned about previews and predictions; at this point, they’re only worried about basketball.
“So what that nobody picked us to be here? That’s OK. Pretty sure nobody is picking us to win, either. That’s OK,” he continued. “But we understand that. We embrace that, because, at the end of the day, we truly don’t care. We’re just going to go out here and compete, play together like we always have, and I’m going to see where we end up.”
Jimmy Butler isn’t the only one who likes the Miami Heats’ chances in the NBA Finals
Looking at the big picture, it’s easy to see what Jimmy Butler was talking about in the second part of his answer. The LA Lakers were supposed to be here; they have two of the NBA’s top talents on their roster, including an inspired LeBron James. The Miami Heat, on the other hand, have come out of nowhere and crashed the party.
Butler’s comments about not being underdogs, though, could be more accurate than they seem. While the Lakers may be getting most of the love in conventional predictions, 538 disagrees; their probabilities actually give the Heat a 73% chance of victory heading into the NBA Finals. Dealing with LeBron and Anthony Davis can be an impossible challenge, but perhaps Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are the right two men to take on the task.
Once Game 1 tips off, though, all of the numbers will go out the window. No matter what happens, though, you can count on one thing from the Miami Heat.
“At the end of the day we’re going to do this our way, the Miami Heat way, and that way has worked for us all year long,” Jimmy Butler concluded.