April 13, 2024

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Butler Scores 35, Heat Rally to Beat Celtics 123-116 in East Finals Opener

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Butler Scores 35, Heat Rally to Beat Celtics 123-116 in East Finals Opener

The Miami Heat rallied in the second half to defeat the Boston Celtics 123-116 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to Jimmy Butler’s 35 points, including 20 after the break.

After a sluggish start to their most recent conference finals matchup against the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat needed a calming influence.

Jimmy Butler delivered all of that and much more.

Butler led the Heat to a 123-116 victory over the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night with 35 points, including 20 after the break.

He claimed that his teammates had boosted his confidence.

“I’m playing at an incredible level because they are allowing me to do so,” Butler said. “My game is not being restricted in any way by them. On defense, they are putting their trust in me with the ball. Any basketball player wants that, in my opinion.”

A nine-point deficit at the half was closed by Miami, which then outscored Boston 66-50 in the final two quarters after scoring a playoff-record 46 points in the third. It was Butler’s fifth postseason game with at least 30 points, and he also had seven assists, six steals, and five rebounds.

“one of this association’s top two-way basketball players. … What we required was that.” Erik Spoelstra, the Heat coach, said. “Jimmy was able to fulfill all of our needs in the final minutes, both as a scorer and a coordinator.”

In addition, Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 8 rebounds. All together, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, and Max Strus contributed 15 points. From beyond the arc, the Heat made 16 of 31 shots.

All three of the playoff series’ road wins have been by the No. 8 seeded Heat. In Boston, the second game is scheduled for this Friday.

Despite having 30 points as the Celtics’ top scorer, Jayson Tatum didn’t attempt a shot in the final frame. In total, Jaylen Brown had 22 points and 9 rebounds. 19 additional points came from Malcolm Brogdon.

In the playoffs, Boston is only 4-4 at home.

“I don’t know why,” Tatum spoke of their difficulties at home. “Regardless of whether you are at home or away, you still need to play the game and make plays.”

The Celtics were 10 of 29 from beyond the arc, which is below par for a team that thrives when defending and outshooting opponents.

“We lost our offensive purpose,” Joe Mazzulla, the Celtics’ coach, said.

The Heat and Celtics have faced off in this round three times in the past four seasons as of the series’ opening tip. In seven games, Boston prevailed in the previous meeting.

The first meeting on Wednesday felt exactly like it was going to continue the last one. Boston started out strong inside, and at halftime, it had a nine-point lead.

Spoelstra said his team was “more intentional” over the final 24 minutes.

The third quarter saw Miami tie the game at 78 thanks to a 13-1 run that they used as a lesson from the Boston Celtics. Broadcast cameras caught Mazzulla throwing a clipboard in anger during the following timeout.

Butler broke through to give his teammates opportunities after Boston was unable to halt the onslaught, and Miami then nudge back in front.

The Heat led the Celtics 46-25 in the third and went into the fourth with a 103-91 advantage, drawing some jeers from the TD Garden crowd.

The run was stopped by a 3-pointer by Vincent after Boston responded by scoring the opening seven points of the final frame.

When Butler fouled Brogdon with just over three minutes remaining, Miami was up 114-109. But only one of his two free throw attempts was successful. Before connecting with Martin for a corner 3-pointer, Butler was pinned on Miami’s subsequent possession.

Tatum strayed, returning the ball to the Heat. The ball was returned to Boston after Miami missed, but Tatum was flagged for traveling once more.

Before Butler’s 3-pointer went in with 1:03 left, Miami let the shot clock run out.

In contrast, the second half was a complete 180.

“We are just playing really good basketball,” Butler said. “We are sticking together through the good and the bad more than anything else.”

ROAD WARRIORS

The Heat, who also include the 2021 Hawks, 1999 Knicks, 1989 Bulls, and 1981 Rockets, are the fifth team to start each of their first three series with a victory on the road. Only one other team received a No. 8 seed to make the conference finals.

TIP-INS

Heat: Miami’s previous playoff high was 43 points in the first half of a game against Charlotte in 2016. … In his opening nine minutes of play, Lowry made 5 of his 6 shots, tallying 13 points. … In the opening period, Butler (12) and Adebayo (6) accounted for 18 of Miami’s 28 points. Butler’s first-quarter double-digit scoring total this postseason was seven times.

Marcus Smart finished with 13 points and 11 assists for the Celtics. … 66-57 lead at the break. In the final 5:26 of the half, Boston defeated Miami 19-10 with the score tied at 47. … Following two games without it in their semifinal matchup with the 76ers, Brown donned his black protective mask. Late in the regular season, he suffered a facial bone fracture. … Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots attended.

Reference: www.usnews.com

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