Why Jimmy Butler struggled in Game 1 and 2 vs Bucks

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Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler has gotten off to a bad start in the team’s first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. He shot 18.2 percent from the field in Game 1 on 22 shots, scoring 17 points.

The Game 1 statistics were far below his regular-season averages. In the regular season, Butler shot 49.7 percent from the field on 14.2 shots per game, scoring 21.5 points. But why did Butler struggled in Game 1?

Let’s take a look at the catalyst behind Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler’s struggles in Game1 and 2 of the team’s first-round playoff series vs the Bucks

Well, he strayed away from his bread and butter. Butler has become a player dependent on being close to the basket for success. Butler has done most of his offensive damage in the restricted area over the past two seasons, shooting 66 percent on 5.45 shots a game, creating 7.2 points, 34.8 percent of his scoring output.

When Butler is not in the restricted area, he has struggled, shooting 35.2 percent from the field on 8.1 shots a game. Butler’s struggles outside the restricted area are associated with a sprained right wrist that he suffered in January of 2019. Before that injury, Butler was shooting 37.5 percent outside the restricted area on 9.7 shots per game. After sustaining the injury, his shooting percentage outside of the restricted area dropped 3.1 percent as he shot 34.4 percent on 8.1 field goals per game.

Coming into the series against the Bucks, Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat knew that Milwaukee ran a defensive system that prioritized protecting the paint. The Bucks usually have multiple players stand below the free throw line to ensure that opponents cannot get a good look at the rim.

Milwaukee’s system has been the catalyst for them holding opponents to 58.1 percent shooting in the restricted area on 24.4 shots per game. The shooting percentage contributed to Milwaukee being in the top 5 in the paint in the past three seasons as they held opposing teams to 41.3 points in the paint.

Therefore, Butler decided to take shots outside of the paint in Game 1 because it would give him more open looks. Butler would come up the court and typically go over or reject the screen and take a longer distance shot.

Butler took 18 of his 22 shots outside the restricted area. Defenders contested only 54.5 percent of those shots. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the open looks as he shot 11.1 percent outside the restricted area. Butler decided to go back to his original approach for Game 2.

Unfortunately, Butler didn’t succeed as he would often get surrounded by multiple Milwaukee Bucks players, which forced him to take 6 contested shots: 60 percent of his total field goals for that game. He made 50 percent of those contested shots but became hesitant to continue driving due to all of the bodies that were surrounding him. Consequently, Milwaukee’s system contributed to Butler ultimately shooting 40 percent from the field on 10 shots, creating 10 points.

It is unlikely that Butler will succeed as a scorer in this series because the Bucks defense is tailored to stop his strengths. Consequently, he should be more of a facilitator in the series where he drives into the defense, gets them to collapse onto him, and then passes the ball for a wide-open three.

This potential role for Butler would be ideal as the Milwaukee Bucks’ biggest defensive weakness is defending 3-pointers because defenders don’t have enough time to run back and properly contest a three.

Therefore, Milwaukee has allowed opponents to shoot 37.3 percent from behind the arc over the past three seasons on 37.5 attempts. Although this would be the best approach for him for the rest of the series, he would have to depend on his teammates to make wide-open threes.

Unfortunately, the Heat were 19th in 3-point shooting during the regular season, converting 35.8 percent of their field goals on 36.2 attempts per game. The team has continued to struggle from behind the arc in the playoffs as they are converting 35.9 percent of their shots on 39 attempts per game.

If the Miami Heat role players can’t make their threes, Butler’s effect on the game will continue to be minimal. In conclusion, Butler’s decline in outside shooting has made it difficult for him to succeed against Milwaukee. Therefore, he can only have maximum impact as a facilitator.

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