Frustration manifests itself in all sorts of ways. Sometimes you get quiet and turn inward. Sometimes you pummel an innocent, unsuspecting pillow. And sometimes you just need to get into a good, old-fashioned shouting match.
In the third quarter of the Miami Heat‘s 118-104 loss to the incredibly short-handed Golden State Warriors at home on Wednesday night, Heat veterans Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem got into an altercation on the sideline, eventually forcing teammates to separate them as they screamed presumably not-so-nice things in each other’s direction. Head coach Erik Spoelstra also seemed to be upset with Butler as Heat players got between them.
Though we’ve yet to get an explanation about the specifics of the kerfuffle, it’s easy to see why the Heat might be frustrated. After being tied at 50 at halftime, the Warriors — playing without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and other key personnel — opened the third quarter with a 19-0 run to take a 69-50 lead.
“It’s pretty clear. We have a very competitive, gnarly group, and we were getting our asses kicked,” Spoelstra said after the game. “I would say virtually every single person in that huddle was pretty animated about our disappointment in how we were playing.”
The Heat are far from the first team to direct anger toward each other during a stretch of underwhelming play, and often coaches respond to such inner-squad altercations with praise, rather than admonishment. Correlation does not prove causation, but after the bench blow-up, the Heat cut the Warriors’ lead to a single point, 81-80, heading into the fourth quarter.
Things quickly devolved in the final frame, however, with the Heat allowing 37 points to a Warriors team that has notoriously struggled offensively without Curry and Green. It was a markedly bad loss in what has been a tremendous regular season for the Heat.
Butler has been one of the most vocal leaders in the NBA for years now, and Haslem, still in the league during his 19th season solely due to his locker room presence, is likely one of the few Heat players willing and able to go back at Butler when he feels it’s necessary — particularly if he was standing up for his coach. Fans often view these types of altercations as signs of internal discord, but in reality, they can sometimes act as a springboard for bonding and cohesion. We’ll have to wait and see how the Heat respond to Wednesday night’s sideline fireworks.
“It’s crazy, but it’s passion. … It’s good sometimes to get some anger and frustration out and just talk about it,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said after the game. “We’re gonna have situations that make people uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, as long as we’re comfortable and we figure it out, that’s all that really matters. As long as we’re together. And we are.”