So the Jimmy Butler vs. T.J. Warren showdown wasn’t quite entertaining as fans had anticipated but the forward’s return to action gave the Miami Heat a timely boost as they stormed to a 114-92 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Monday’s game marked the Heat’s third straight win over the Pacers this season and, with one more clash to come ahead of the playoffs, Miami tightened their grip on that fourth Eastern Conference berth on the back of a remarkable team performance.
Warren, who’s been leading the NBA in scoring since the season restarted in Orlando, was limited to 12 points on 5/14 shooting, having downplayed the rivalry prior to the game. Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, recorded a double-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists along with four steals after missing three consecutive games.
The players hardly acknowledged each other’s presence on the floor and the only significant exchange came late in the fourth quarter, when Warren sold Jimmy on a shot fake but failed to hit the resulting jump shot.
The game itself was pretty competitive in the first half, which ended at 48 apiece. The Heat, though, pulled away in the third and hardly needed Butler for the final period, with Erik Spoelstra leaving him on the bench after 29 minutes played.
Seven Heat players scored in double digits as Goran Dragic, who also spent time sidelined, scored 11 points and assisted nine baskets. Tyler Herro and Derrick Jones Jr. scored 17 and 18 respectively, while Jae Crowder had another good performance as a starter with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Miami will play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night before facing Indiana on Friday for what will be the last of their eight seeding games.