Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren have quite a rivalry going dating back to January. While the world has changed quite a bit since then, both players were given fines by the NBA for their actions earlier this year.
The match-up between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers on Monday evening drew a bit of extra attention for the player-versus-player rematch. The Heat turned a close-fought battle after halftime, into a rout, eventually outlasting the Pacers by a final score of 114-92.
Warren, though he has been unbelievable in the bubble, and the Pacers got off to a glacial start in this matchup. Miami built an early lead of 21-9 and the climax of the early going was a connection between Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo.
Indiana opened the night by shooting 3-of-15 and committing five turnovers, scoring only nine points in the first ten minutes of action. However, it was Warren that helped to lead the Pacers out of the morass and, for the first half, the talented forward produced 12 points.
Butler was also productive, scoring ten points, but he relied on 8-of-8 from the line after shooting just 1-of-7 from the floor. While Miami got off to a strong start on the back of Indiana’s offense mishaps, the Pacers did rally, using a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the night near halftime. In fitting fashion for a game between teams with identical win-loss records for the season, the game was knotted at 48-48 after 24 minutes of play.
After the break, though, the Heat quickly took control and they never let go of the rope. Miami zoomed to a 13-4 run to open the third quarter, with quality work on both ends.
Much as they did in the first half, Indiana stumbled at the outset of the third quarter, scoring only nine points in eight minutes. Along the way, Warren picked up his fourth foul, forcing Nate McMillan to go to the bench, and the floodgates continued to open for Miami.
Eventually, the lead ballooned to 18 before the end of the third period, as Miami shot 64 percent from the floor and knocked down six three-pointers in the quarter. Defensively, the Heat held the Pacers to 33 percent shooting and 1-of-9 from long distance, with tenacity and effectiveness that visibly bothered Indiana.
While he was far from alone, Butler was masterful in the third quarter, scoring nine points, dishing out three assists and generally controlling the action on both ends.
Though Warren did have moments in the first half, this night belonged to Butler from a head-to-head standpoint. The All-Star wing finished the night with 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals, overcoming a shaky shooting night to make a significant two-way impact.
From a team-wide perspective, the Heat took care of business in notable fashion, especially when taking into account that this could be a playoff preview. Miami and Indiana are projected to square off as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds and, even before that matchup could begin, the two teams will take the floor against each other again on Friday.
On this night, though, Miami’s defense forced Indiana into ugly offense throughout the night and, with the help of Butler and a balanced attack that netted seven players in double figures, the Heat made quite a statement.