The tough-minded Miami Heat are a reflection of their leader Jimmy Butler, says three-time NBA champion BJ Armstrong.
Led by Butler and a spectacular game-sealing block from center Bam Adebayo, the Heat struck the first blow in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics with a hard-fought 117-114 overtime win in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
The victory was Miami's ninth in the 10 postseason games they have played so far inside the bubble and Armstrong believes Butler's leadership and the construction of the roster that backs him up have been keys to the Heat's success.
Speaking on the latest edition of the Heatcheck Overtime podcast, Armstrong said: "We have talked about leadership in relationship to the Milwaukee Bucks. One difference you see between the Bucks and the Miami Heat is the following: what does Jimmy Butler do well? He is a grind-it-out type of player. When you look at the team that is around him, they have Bam Adebayo, Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala. They complement what he does well. Butler doesn't shoot the ball well so the Heat added Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson around him.
"Butler is a big-time player in clutch moments. He is fearless and he will defend. This Heat team reflects his personality. You have to give the Heat, particularly [team president] Pat Riley and [head coach] Erik Spoelstra, credit because they have surrounded him with players who complement what he does.
"When you watch the Miami Heat, it is really a reflection of Jimmy Butler's personality. They want to grind it out, talk to each other how they want to talk to each other and, most importantly, they are an unselfish group and they defend."
Armstrong said Butler's formative years as a role player with the Chicago Bulls have helped shape the leadership he is now demonstrating later in his career.
"I think Jimmy Butler understands leadership, he said. "Where did he get that? I think he learned it in Chicago when he played with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng [on the Bulls]. He is not afraid of the moment. He has had an example of what to do.
"This [Heat team] is his team and now and he is in the driver's seat. Now he has the confidence to go out there and do it. This Miami Heat team are playing well and with a lot of confidence. That is the key. They are playing their best basketball at the right time.
Armstrong noted the Heat did not hit consistently their offensive straps in their Game 1 win and believes that should be cause for concern for the Celtics.
"If I am the Boston Celtics I am a little afraid heading into Game 2," he said. "This is a must-win game for the Celtics because the Miami Heat did not play well in Game 1. They did not deserve to win that game. When you win in the playoffs without playing well on the offensive end, it gives you more confidence.
"I expect the Miami Heat to look at the film [of Game 1], make adjustment on the offensive end and - if they continue to defend they way they have been doing - it could be an early exit for the Celtics."
Armstrong's fellow Heatcheck guest Mo Mooncey analysed where the Celtics fell short in the opening game of the series.
"I don't think the Boston Celtics played well in Game 1," he said. "Kemba Walker is a big concern for me. He is the biggest x-factor in this series for the Celtics because the wings of Miami - Crowder, Butler, Iguodala off the bench - are great defensively. They are all gritty wing defenders who can stop players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
"Walker needs to make Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson work on the defensive side of the ball. He simply has not performed well enough across Game 1 against Miami and the final two games of the Eastern Conference semi-final series against Toronto.
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"In Game 1, Marcus Smart hit a few big shots early and I think he got carried away. He missed multiple open looks to Jaylen Brown which, in turn, led to Brown becoming frustrated and getting thrown off his game. The Celtics need to get back to playing team basketball. They need to move the ball more because the Heat defense, when you attack on the inside, is suffocating.
"The Miami Heat are doing their thing. Putting his game-sealing block aside, Adebayo has been excellent, dominating on the inside. A key thing he did in Game 1 was getting [Celtics center] Daniel Theis into foul trouble early on.
"I am expecting the Miami Heat to win this series. They had time to rest and recover while the Celtics came straight off a Game 7 against a tougher opponent in the previous round. But you can't make excuses.
"Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have done a great job in assembling this Heat team around Butler. In Philadelphia and earlier in Minnesota, Butler was told to fit in with what was already there. This Miami Heat team has been built around him and echoes his hard work. The Heat have one of the hardest training programmes in the league. They demand a lot from their players. You can see why - it is really starting to pay off."