NEW YORK — He did it again.
Eight days after hitting a game-winning 3-pointer for his new team, Jimmy Butler hit a shot from nearly the same spot on the floor with 2.3 seconds to play to give the Philadelphia 76ers a 127-125 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
“Another play drawn up by [Sixers coach Brett Brown], and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me to take shots late,” Butler said. “I got to the spot that I wanted to get to. Raised up and I knocked it down.”
The shot gave Philadelphia a win after it trailed Brooklyn by 19 points midway through the third quarter. It also further solidified Butler’s reputation as a clutch player.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Butler has five game-winning shots with 10 seconds or less remaining. Only Russell Westbrook (seven) has more in that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
But Butler downplayed the idea that he is the Sixers’ go-to player in crunch time.
“To tell you the truth, it could have been anybody,” he said. “They do have a lot of confidence in me, but I have so much more confidence in those guys.”
It’s worth noting that Butler is 2-for-3 on potential tying or go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds of play since he was traded to the Sixers two weeks ago. His first make was a 3-pointer from the wing — nearly the same spot as his shot Sunday — to give Philadelphia an overtime win against Charlotte on Nov. 17.
All of Butler’s Sixers teammates are 1-for-13 in the past two seasons on such shots, per ESPN Stats & Information data.
Brown said after the game that his top option on the Sixers’ final possession was for Butler to take a shot with his team trailing by one.
“Big-time player got to his spot and hit a big-time shot,” Joel Embiid, who jumped on Butler in celebration following the winner, said after scoring 32 points against Brooklyn.
Though it wasn’t due to lack of confidence in his teammates, Butler joked that he had no intention of passing the ball when he got it out of a timeout with less than 10 seconds to play.
“I ain’t going to even stunt. I was shooting that ball,” Butler (34 points, 12 rebounds) said with a smile. “That ball was going up.”
Butler made the fadeaway 3 from one of his favorite spots on the floor. He said that he’d practiced the shot extensively during a workout at Villanova the night before the game.
While Brown was impressed by the game winner, he also credited Butler for diving on the floor to force a jump ball with 12 seconds to play — a sequence that set up the Sixers’ final possession.
“He was massive going down the stretch,” the coach said.
Butler also made a key defensive play to set up his earlier winner against the Hornets. He blocked Kemba Walker‘s shot on a drive with 15 seconds left and then saved the ball from going out of bounds. Walker scored 60 points in the game.
“Jimmy did what Jimmy does and what he’s done for us before,” Brown said Sunday.
Butler’s shot helped Philadelphia avoid what would have been a second consecutive defeat to a sub-.500 team. The Sixers lost at home Friday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had been winless on the road.
Philadelphia struggled defensively early on against the Nets, falling behind by 20 in the first half and trailing by 19 with 6:20 to play in the third quarter. Brown said the club began to double-team the pick-and-roll in the second half, which helped slow down Nets guards D’Angelo Russell (38 points) and Spencer Dinwiddie (31).
Russell and Dinwiddie are the latest lead guards to exploit Philadelphia, which entered play Sunday allowing 19.5 points per game to the opposing starting point guard — the third-highest mark in the NBA.
But the defensive scheme late in Sunday’s game was a key factor in Philadelphia (14-8) outscoring Brooklyn by 15 in the fourth quarter.
“We started being more aggressive getting into the ball, doing what we were supposed to be doing,” Butler said.
The Sixers are 5-2 since Butler made his debut Nov. 14. Brown commended the 29-year-old on Sunday for the way he has immersed himself with Philadelphia teammates and coaches.
“He’s not force-feeding anything — not his offensive game, not his defensive game and not his personality,” Brown said. “He’s figuring us all out and going slow. There’s sort of a temperance and a patience that I respect.
“It’s caught me off guard, it has surprised me. And he’s candid about it. That was my assessment, and then when you talk with him it’s calculated. He’s trying to integrate himself into our program and culture with a level of humility and respect for what’s been going on and figure his way out slowly.”
Butler can opt out of the final season of his current contract and test free agency this summer. The 76ers would be able to offer Butler a five-year max contract worth $190 million, while other teams could offer four years and a projected $141 million.
“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Butler said Sunday when asked about a long-term future in Philadelphia. “But I really do like it here, I’ll tell you that. But I don’t know what the future holds. This is a helluva locker room, helluva staff. I could see this being home.”