Jimmy Butler’s role may not have been so clear a month ago, when the Philadelphia 76ers were working to see where he would fit in the starting lineup after their blockbuster trade for Tobias Harris.
But now, in late March with 10 games left in the regular season, Butler’s position on the team is more defined. He is going to be what he’s been for the past four seasons, and that’s a closer who knows how to seal games and get buckets when they are needed most.
Butler is averaging 18.8 points per game with the Sixers this season. But in the past four games, Butler’s scoring has seen an uptick. He is averaging 23.5 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field.
Aside from his scoring average increasing slightly recently, his production in the fourth quarter has been significant for the Sixers.
In the past four games, the Sixers have won by an average margin of 5.3 points. Butler has helped lead the Sixers to victory in each of those games.
In the win against the Sacramento Kings on Mar. 15, Butler only had four points in the fourth quarter but, with 50 seconds left, made a jumper to put the Sixers up 123-114. More of Butler’s production came during the second quarter, when he helped lead the second unit, scoring 12 points in the quarter, as he got to the rim with ease.
During the win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler continued to dominate for the Sixers. Joel Embiid had perhaps his best game of the season with 40 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks. But Butler had 27 points, and he scored 14 points within the game’s final six minutes.
The win against the Charlotte Hornets was another close game, as the Sixers won 118-114. During a game in November against the Hornets, Butler made a game-winning three-pointer in overtime.
On Tuesday, Butler sank another clutch shot against the Hornets that was from about the same spot from which he made the game-winner back in November. With 1:26 left and the game tied at 109, Butler made a three-pointer to put the Sixers up.
Butler’s biggest moment of the season came Wednesday, when he made a game-sealing jumper to help the Sixers defeat the Boston Celtics, 118-115. Butler scored 22 points, with 15 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
It was the first time the Sixers defeated the Celtics all season, and it showed how the Sixers have the potential to make it out of the competitive top half of the Eastern Conference.
Butler showcasing his talents in the fourth quarters of these past few games shows how valuable he’ll be in the playoffs. The playoffs are a time when players like Butler thrive. He’s been to the playoffs six times during his seven years in the league, and he’s averaged at least 22 points per game twice out of his six playoff appearances.
There will be times when the Sixers need a bucket to remain in a close game, and Butler is one of the few players in the league who is talented at making clutch shots.
For the Sixers, even though Butler isn’t the No. 1 option, having Butler’s clutch shot-making ability is going to be important come playoff time.