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#pounditTuesday, January 31, 2023

ESPN writer had surprising vote for Eastern Conference Finals MVP

The Celtics' ECF trophy ceremony

Jimmy Butler’s superhuman effort in the Eastern Conference Finals did not go unnoticed by one ESPN writer.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was voted as the inaugural winner of the Eastern Conference Finals MVP Award after knocking out Butler and the Miami Heat in Game 7 on Sunday. It was not a unanimous decision though, as Tatum only got eight out of nine votes from the media. Tim Bontemps of ESPN dissented and gave his vote to the Heat star Butler despite Miami’s defeat. Even Heat writers Ira Winderman and Tim Reynolds both voted Tatum for the award.

Bothered by a knee issue, Butler performed poorly in Games 3, 4, and 5. But during Games 1, 2, 6, and 7, Butler was a dazzling comet shooting across the sky. He averaged 38.0 points per game over those four contests, including 41 points in Game 1 and his magnum opus with 47 points on the road in Game 6 to avoid elimination.

During Sunday’s Game 7, Butler was also Miami’s most consistent source of offense, pouring in another 35 points while playing all 48 minutes. He even had a chance to win the game and the series with less than 20 seconds left but just missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer (a shot that, in fairness, he had 110 percent earned the right to take at that point).

After leading the Heat to a surprise Finals berth during the Orlando bubble in 2020, Butler further cemented himself as an all-time playoff performer this postseason. Perhaps even more impressive was the way that Butler led Miami to a seventh game with five of their top six rotation guys (including Butler himself and Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, who lasted just seven minutes on Sunday) being hobbled by injury. While this was obviously still a very disappointing way for the Heat’s season to end, at least Butler may have something to look forward to this summer.

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