In wake of melee, Heat’s Jimmy Butler said of Pelicans, ‘We’ll beat them the next time, too’; Friday is the next time

MIAMI — The comment came in the immediate wake of the Miami Heat heat of battle. Nonetheless, it would be surprising if not posted prominently in the New Orleans Pelicans locker room Friday night at Kaseya Center.

No sooner did the Heat defeat the Pelicans 106-95 Feb. 23 at Smoothie King Center, in a contentious game that left four players ejected, then Heat forward Jimmy Butler was asked about this season’s rematch.

“We’ll beat them the next time, too,” Butler, one of those four ejected, said after the game. “We’re just a better team.”

Butler didn’t stop there.

“I’m not going to say they’re not a good team,” he said. “I don’t think this really matters. I think when we get them on our home court, it’s going to be a different game. I hope that they’re healthy. It’s going to be the same outcome.”

At the time, the Heat were arguably in a more confident place.

“Our team is so ready for anything that anybody’s thrown at us,” Butler said after that game. “We’re so together, playing some incredible basketball. I don’t think it matters who we go up against right now. It’s that time of the year.”

Since that game, the Heat have gone 7-6.

Since that game, entering Thursday’s play, the Pelicans had gone 8-3.

Asked in the wake of Wednesday night’s victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse if he stands by his previous comments. Butler smiled.

“I don’t go into any game saying we’re going to lose,” said Butler, who is coming off a 30-point performance against the Cavaliers. “But we’re gonna get a dub. It’s on our home floor, anyways We will be fine.”

With both teams locked into heated playoff races — the Pelicans playing for homecourt in the opening round, the Heat seeking to get out of the play-in bracket — Friday likely will transcend revenge.

“It doesn’t linger,” said center Thomas Bryant, who was ejected that night. “I’m not going to let that linger or anything like that.”

In addition to his ejection, Bryant was suspended three games for the fracas, with Butler and Heat forward Nikola Jovic each suspended one game.

Related Articles

For the Pelicans, Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado also were ejected that night, with Marshall suspended one game and Alvarado three.

“It happens, it stays in the past, and we just move on,” Bryant said in looking ahead to Friday night. “The train keeps rolling. We don’t look in the past.”

The reality is that the contentiousness resulted from a non-contentious play, when Pelicans forward Zion Williams stole the ball from Butler and Heat forward Kevin Love grabbed Williamson to prevent an uncontested layup.

As Love was called for his foul, Williamson fell to the court.

And then emotions erupted, with Williamson wondering about the fuss.

“I wasn’t tripping about K-Love because he actually protected me on my fall,” Williamson said at the time. “All of a sudden I see Butler kind of lunging toward Naji, so I’m trying to get there like, ‘Yo, relax, like what’s going on?’ ”

In the moment, Butler questioned the legitimacy of Williamson’s fall.

“On K-Love’s best day,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said at the time, “I don’t think he could throw him down.”

The Heat have won a franchise-record seven in a row against the Pelicans, seeking Friday to sweep the series for the fourth consecutive season.

Of arguably greater concern for the Heat is the 17-15 record at Kaseya Center they will carry into Friday’s start of a four-game homestand, yet to establish any type of homecourt dominance this season.

All Butler knows is that he has moved beyond last month’s scrap, but not beyond trying to get some of his lost wages back.

“There is a freakin’ memory,” he said. “I got fined a lot of money. I don’t give a damn about tensions flaring and all of that. I’ve got kids. I’ve got diapers, baby food. That’s all I’m worried about, trying to get my bread back.”