NBA: Jimmy Butler pours in 41 as Heat down Celtics in Game 1
Jimmy Butler was pegged to play a co-starring role with Boston’s Jayson Tatum in the Eastern Conference finals, but the Miami Heat standout reconstructed the projections into a one-hero script in Game 1.
One day after signaling Tatum was the type of player he wants to compete against, Butler stole the show. He scored 17 of his 41 points in an epic third-quarter uprising to help the host Heat rally for a 118-107 victory over the Celtics in the series opener on Tuesday night.
Butler also contributed nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots to help Miami overcome a 13-point, second-quarter deficit.
“MVP Jimmy did his thing,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said. “He put us on his back tonight. We’ll need other guys to step up throughout the series to help Jimmy.”
Game 2 is Thursday night in Miami.
— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2022
The 40-point effort was Butler’s fifth in the postseason during his three-season tenure with the Heat. The only player with more is franchise icon Dwyane Wade with seven.
“I know what I’m capable of, I don’t do this to score 40 points,” Butler said of his third 40-point outing of this postseason. “I play the way I play to win by all means necessary and it just so happened that I score 40. If I score 40 and lose, I’ll be pretty (ticked) off.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Butler stepped up under the lights of the conference finals showcase.
“This competition is high level and he senses it,” Spoelstra said. “He knows it and feels it and he was able to produce to feel comfortable that we could win this game tonight.”
"He's competing to win… and he does that as well as anybody in this league."
Coach Spo on Jimmy Butler's competitive drive. pic.twitter.com/MApEYMsz7z
— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2022ADVERTISEMENT
The Heat turned the game around by outscoring Boston 39-14 in the third quarter to seize a 93-76 lead entering the final stanza.
Herro registered 18 points and eight rebounds and Gabe Vincent scored 17 points for Miami.
Tatum recorded 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals but also committed seven turnovers.
“I had too many turnovers,” Tatum said. “I have to be better in those situations. I’ve got to take care of the ball better.”
Jaylen Brown had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Robert Williams III added 18 points and nine rebounds and Payton Pritchard also scored 18 points for Boston.
The Celtics played without NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart (right foot) and Al Horford (COVID-19 protocol). Williams started in Horford’s place, returning from a four-game absence caused by a left knee injury.
The Heat were without Kyle Lowry (left hamstring) for the seventh time in the past nine games.
Max Strus scored 11 points and Bam Adebayo added 10 points and four blocked shots for Miami. The Heat shot 48.8 percent from the field, including 10 of 30 from 3-point range.
Boston made 45.6 percent from the field and was 11 of 34 from behind the arc.
The final bucket of Jimmy's 41 point night! #HEATCulture
— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2022
Miami opened the third quarter with a 22-2 burst to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 76-64 lead. Boston didn’t make a field goal for the first 7:07 of the period.
After the Celtics scored nine straight points to move within three, the Heat finished the quarter with a 17-3 surge to hold the 17-point edge. Boston shot just 13.3 percent (2 of 15) from the field in the period.
“It flipped pretty quickly,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “We lost our composure — 39-14 on 2-of-15 (shooting) is tough to overcome. We had one poor quarter that hurt us. It’s disappointing we came out as flat as we did.”
Herro was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws to give Miami a 96-76 lead with 10:45 left in the contest. Boston answered with 10 straight points and pulled within 96-86 on two free throws by Grant Williams with 8:21 remaining.
The Heat led by 13 after a 3-pointer by Strus with 3:18 left, but the Celtics scored eight of the next 10 points, with Pritchard’s trey pulling Boston within 114-107 with 1:29 left.
Two free throws by Vincent and a layup by Butler clinched it for Miami.
Tatum scored 21 first-half points as Boston held a 62-54 lead at the break. The Celtics shot a torrid 59.1 percent from the field in the half. Miami shot 48.8 percent.
“I think we kind of went away from what was working,” Tatum said. “That’s something we have to be aware of Thursday.”
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