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Murphy: Butler-Williams Reminiscent Of Tkachuk-Ullmark



Boston Bruins

As he has been throughout the NBA playoffs, Miami Heat superstar Jimmy Butler took a page out Matthew Tkachuk’s playbook against the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and now the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Watching the Celtics – and more specifically forward Grant Williams  – unravel late in the fourth quarter and lose Game 2 to Jimmy Butler and the Heat 111-105 at TD Garden Friday night felt a lot like watching Tkachuk rattle Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark late in Game 4 of the Panthers seven-game series win over the Bruins.

With 6:22 left in the game, his team down by nine points, and the Celtics about to even the Eastern Conference Final up at a game a piece, Butler drained a shot and got fouled by Williams. He immediately got in Williams face and taunted the clearly rattled Celtics forward. Butler then converted the free throw, nailed a short jumper on the next time down the court then taunted Williams again. After two more back-to-back buckets by Butler, the Heat were ahead after trailing by 12 earlier in the 4th quarter, and never trailed again.

When asked if the encounter with Williams fueled him even more, Butler didn’t hide the fact it did.

“Yes, it did,” said Butler, who would hands-down be the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), frontrunner if the NBA had a similar trophy. “That’s just competition at its finest. He hit a big shot. Started talking to me; I like that. I’m all for that. It makes me key in a lot more. It pushes that will that I have to win a lot more. It makes me smile. It does. When people talk to me, I’m like, OK, I know I’m a decent player, if you want to talk to me out of everybody that you can talk to. But it’s just competition. I do respect him, though. He’s a big part of what they try to do. He switches. He can shoot the ball. I just don’t know if I’m the best person to talk to.”

Sound familiar Boston Bruins fans?

Remember when Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark came close to fighting Panthers superstar forward but lead agitator Matthew Tkachuk in the waning minutes of the 6-2 Bruins win in Game 4 that put the Bruins up 3-1 in their first round series?

At the time, everyone (including this puck scribe), was praising Ullmark for standing up to Tkachuk and his borderline shenanigans.

“As a goalie you’re just expected to stop pucks. You’re not expected to take stick work and someone coming after you” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “We’ve stuck together all year and I’m proud of the way we stuck together there. They had six players on the ice because they had the pulled goalie situation.”

The reality of the situation though, was that Tkachuk had rattled the Boston Bruins goalie – who wasn’t available postgame so he could get ‘treatment’ – and sent a message no one, most importantly the Bruins, seemed to receive: the Panthers were far from done in the series and Ullmark would never look like the Vezina Trophy finalist he is again in the series.

Tkachuk would have a goal and an assist in Game 5 with the goal being the overtime winner that sent the series to a Game 6 in Florida. The now Conn Smythe frontrunner would then have a goal and an assist as the Panthers lit Ullmark up for six goal in a 7-5 Game 6 win to force a Game 7 back in Boston. Tkachuk then assisted on Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner in Game 7, and he and the Panthers moved on while the 2023 Presidents’ Trophy winners began an earlier than expected offseason.

Here’s hoping, unlike the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics get their emotions back in check and don’t fuel Butler anymore.


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