The Atlanta Hawks were arguably closer to the Eastern Conference Finals than their first-round exit after just five games might suggest.
Atlanta beat the Miami Heat in the Play-In Tournament and took two games off the Boston Celtics in their opening-round series. In that Play-In tilt – and over the last couple of years — Hawks star Trae Young has gotten an up-close look at the phenomenon known as “Playoff Jimmy”, a reference to Heat star Jimmy Butler whose game elevates in the postseason.
“Jimmy definitely at a different level in the playoffs .. no matter what he say,” Young tweeted after Butler led Miami to a 121-116 win over Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 17.
Butler’s game-high 35 points in the victory are the same as he had in Game 1 of the Heat’s first-round matchup against the New York Knicks, a series they won in six games. He has already had games in which he’s scored 42 and 56 points during Miami’s run through the postseason.
He added seven assists, six steals, and five rebounds.
But Butler has remained defiant that there is no such thing as “Playoff Jimmy” and that he is just doing what his team needs.
“I really feel as though with anything in life, if you get the opportunity, and you have the belief that my teammates, my coaches, coach Pat [Riley], ownership have in me to kind of lead the charge along with Bam [Adebayo] right now, anything is possible,” Butler said via NBA.com.
“I’m playing at a incredible level because they’re allowing me to do so. They’re not putting a limit on my game. They’re trusting me with the ball on the defensive end, and I think that’s what any basketball player wants. That’s what anybody wants out of life, is just to be wanted, be appreciated, and just let you go out there and rock.”
Despite Butler’s claim, he is one of just two players to improve his shooting efficiency, blocks, and steals per game in the postseason, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.
Young has been vocal about many of this postseason’s top performers and activities.
His time to be lauded may be coming back around.
Young committed to giving better effort on defense this past season even before the arrival of Quin Snyder as head coach and should continue to improve with another offseason to work. He also averaged 31.8 points with 10.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds over the final five games of the series against Boston.
Dejounte Murray weighs in on NBA MVP debate
Young isn’t the only Hawks player who is tuned into the action this postseason. Dejounte Murray has also kept a watchful eye. Enough so that he weighed in on the MVP debate which ultimately saw Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid take the award over Jokic who is averaging a triple-double in the playoffs and up 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals while Philly has been eliminated.
34/21/14 As A Center And He Ain’t The MVP?????? Lol,” Murray tweeted on May 16. “JOKIC DIFFERENT.”
Murray set career-highs across the board this postseason, five years after his last foray into the playoffs with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 23 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 2.0 steals, and canned 37.8% of his threes.
Like with Young – and for them as a duo – having the full offseason under Snyder should only serve Murray well as he grows more comfortable going back to an off-ball role.