Jimmy Butler starts at forward for the Philadelphia 76ers, but he has flourished in his role as the team’s backup point guard during the playoffs.
When Ben Simmons is off the floor, Butler takes over as the team’s distributor and playmaker — and there’s no other role that suits him better.
Butler helped lead the Sixers to a 116-95 win Thursday in Game 3 against the Toronto Raptors. He scored 22 points on 60% shooting, along with grabbing nine rebounds and dishing nine assists, tying a playoff career high.
With Butler having the ball in his hands, he’s able to dictate the Sixers’ offense. Space is created for him to drive to the hoop easily, and he’s also able to create for his teammates.
This postseason is the best Butler has been in terms of being a facilitator. He’s averaged 5.3 assists per game this postseason; he’s averaged 3.2 assists during the playoffs for his career.
Along with his effectiveness on offense, Butler’s ability to defend the perimeter is also more noticeable. With Butler defending primarily the Raptors’ backcourt, he’s able to play passing lanes and put pressure on the Raptors’ guards. He tallied three of the Sixers’ four steals, and Game 3 marked the first time Butler recorded a steal in the series.
With the Sixers taking a 2-1 series lead, this game was perhaps their most complete one of the playoffs. While the Sixers shot 51.2% from the field, they played one of their best games of the year on defense.
Though the Raptors only committed nine turnovers, the Sixers’ commitment to stopping Toronto in the halfcourt showed.
Though Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points, the Sixers contained the middle of the floor well, not letting the Raptors play with quality space. Joel Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds, but he also led the team with five blocks — and Butler led the way on the perimeter.
Butler has had two straight good games against the Raptors, as he’s used his playmaking skills to keep the Sixers’ offense flowing when Simmons is on the bench. As the series goes on, Butler thriving as the Sixers’ secondary playmaker could continue to be a factor in this series.
The Sixers and Raptors will play Game 4 on Sunday in the Wells Fargo Center at 3:30 p.m. EST.