NBA Finals 2020: Why is Jimmy Butler so hard for the Lakers to handle?

Professional skills coach Gary Maitland explains why Miami Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler has proven so difficult for the Los Angeles Lakers to handle in the NBA Finals.


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Jimmy Butler is a super-talented NBA star and a strong leader for the Miami Heat and has caused plenty of problems for the Los Angeles Lakers’ defense in the first four games of the NBA Finals.

Click the video at the top of the page and watch Coach Maitland break down Butler’s solid all-round offensive game.

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Butler is often at the end of the Miami fast break and he is more than capable of knocking down three-pointers, but what sets him apart from most is his finishing ability.

He is strong and physical. He relentlessly bumps defenders to get them off balance and to create enough separation to get his shot off.

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Collectively, Miami space the floor very well which means there is plenty of room for Butler to find his angles.

Let’s look at one example from Miami’s Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Butler attacked the basket but, to gain an advantage he moves across the court, cutting off the defender. That makes it even harder for the defender to recover, otherwise he would run into the back of Butler.

By doing that, Butler created enough separation from the defender on his back so he can go up and score over the interior defense.

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In the fourth quarter of Miami’s Game 3 win over the Lakers, we saw a great example of how Butler can read a mis-match and decide to use his physicality.

There is a gap between Butler and Lakers defender Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Butler’s priority is to close that gap so he pounds the ball and bumps right into KCP’s chest. This makes the defender really vulnerable. Butler then changes angle and hits the defender’s outside shoulder, forcing him to open up. That enables Butler to create separation and get a shot off.

Heat reserve Kelly Olynyk scored 17 points in the Heat’s win over the Lakers in Game 3. Watch the fourth basket Olynyk makes in this highlights package.

In this play, Butler is attacking the basket and clearly has the advantage and is looking for a lay-up attempt. But he sees the help defender coming across to contest his shot.

Now, with the well-spaced Heat team, it means Butler can read the situation, pick the best option available and find a team-mate who is wide open outside the three-point line.

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Check out more from Coach Maitland as he breaks down the skills of more elite NBA players:

  • How’d he do that? What makes Anthony Davis the ultimate Finals weapon?
  • How’d he do that? Michael Jordan’s turnaround fadeaway jumper
  • How’d he do that? Luka Doncic’s step-back jumper
  • How’d he do that? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s iconic Sky Hook
  • How’s he do that? Klay Thompson’s sweet jumper

Click the video at the top of the page to watch Coach Maitland’s analysis of Jimmy Butler’s offensive game

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