“I never thought I would fall in love with a basketball player the way I did with PJ Tucker”

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Lost in the hoopla of Jimmy Butler’s sizzling 41-point eruption in Game 1 of the Boston Celtics versus Miami Heat series was PJ Tucker’s performance. Tucker’s main role in this series will be to make Jayson Tatum work hard for his shots.

Tatum’s offensive brilliance in the first half, where he scored 21 points, overshadowed the bruising forward’s work on the defensive end. The second half was a different story, though, as Tucker helped contain “JT” to only 8 points after a blistering start.

Jimmy Butler couldn’t contain in jest his gratitude and appreciation of Tucker’s latest display in Miami’s biggest game of the season:

“I never thought I would fall in love with a basketball player the way I did with PJ Tucker.”

“I never thought I would fall in love with a basketball player the way I did with PJ Tucker.” — Jimmy Butler

Throughout his career, the 36-year-old’s stats never jumped out of the box score. More often than not, his impact is not readily seen in the raw numbers called game summary. But Jimmy Butler, who was on the other end of Tucker’s tenacity and grit before they were teammates, is nevertheless impressed with his play.

The “Tuck Wagon” was listed as questionable on the Miami Heat injury report due to a lingering calf injury. Before the first half was over, he would also go to the locker room to treat an injured ankle. Despite all of that, few inside FTX Arena were doubtful that the no-nonsense forward would not return as long as he was cleared to play.

Erik Spoelstra on PJ Tucker returning tonight from that injury:“By the time I walked in the locker room, he looked me dead in the eye and said ‘don’t even think about it, I’m playing in that second half.’”

The Miami Heat roared back in the third quarter, unleashing a back-breaking 22-2 run behind Jimmy Butler’s 17 points. Outside the limelight, PJ Tucker toiled endlessly to disrupt and be physical with Jayson Tatum.

“JT” struggled with his shooting and committed too many turnovers (7) because of Tucker’s dogged determination to contain his primary assignment.


Jimmy Butler will need the help of PJ Tucker to win the series for the Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics

PJ Tucker's championship poise, defense and leadership will be crucial for Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
PJ Tucker’s championship poise, defense and leadership will be crucial for Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.

Many basketball analysts questioned the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to let go of PJ Tucker after winning last season’s NBA title. He was the player that the Bucks counted on to do the dirty work and relished every chance he got to take on their opponents’ best player.

Against the Boston Celtics in the second round of this postseason, Tucker would have been an invaluable asset to the former champs. Milwaukee’s loss is evidently Miami’s win based on what the NBA vet has shown since the start of the season.

Tucker is a proven winner who simply wants to get the job done, regardless of how difficult or thankless it is. For Jimmy Butler to drag this team to the NBA Finals, he would need everything that Tucker could provide in the series.


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