Miami 118 Boston 107: Brilliant Butler’s 41 points inspires Heat comeback as Celtics Collapse in Q3
Jimmy Butler bullies the Boston Celtics with 41 points in Miami Heat's 118-107 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals
Jimmy Butler has been in white-hot form in the post-season, surpassing 40 points on three occasions and producing five 30-point hauls before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami. In fact, the 32-year-old has scored 30 points or more in each NBA Playoffs game so far this post-season. But the six-time NBA All-Star finished the first 24 minutes of play with just 14 points as the Celtics managed to restrain the seemingly irrepressible small forward. But as his team-mate Tyler Herro quipped, MVP Jimmy did his thing in the final two quarters – and it changed the outcome of Game 1. Butler was more aggressive and inspired the home team to a 22-2 run in the third quarter that flipped Game 1 on its head. He finished with 41 points, 12 for 19 shooting and put away 17 of his 18 free throws. It’s worth nothing he also had nine rebounds and five assists. His performance was all the more impressive seeing as Jayson Tatum was on course to dominate Game 1 based on his first-half display but the experienced Heat talisman showed his experience by wrestling control away from the Celtics’ rising star.
“I know what I’m capable of, I don’t do this to score 40 points,” Butler said. “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.”
Butler’s 40-point haul was his fourth this post-season and his fifth in the post-season since moving to Miami three years ago. The Heat No22 is just two behind franchise legend Dwyane Wade who managed seven during his decorated career. His Instagram post after the win read: “7 more”. This is a man with a clear goal in his mind.
Home and away
Heading into the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami Heat had a 6-0 winning record at the FTX Arena in this season’s Playoffs and Boston Celtics had a 4-1 post-season record on the road. At half-time, it looked like the Celtics would be the team to extend their impressive momentum on the road with Tatum’s 21 points firing the second seeds to a 62-54 lead. They were shooting 59% in the field despite coming up against one of the elite defenses in the NBA. Tatum was spectacular in the first half both offensively and defensively but the Heat came roaring back in the third quarter with an incredible 22-2 run to flip Game 1 on its head ahead of Game 2 back in Miami on Thursday. Something has got to give in this series and the Heat look unstoppable with a 7-0 home record post-season – but the Celtics have bounced back impressively from adversity already in the Playoffs this year.
We need a Herro
He may have been voted the NBA Sixth Man of the Year during the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals but Herro struggled against the Milwaukee Bucks. It wasn’t the case against the Celtics as the 22-year-old made a bright start to this series with 18 points – 15 of which came in the first half to keep the Heat within striking distance of the Celtics. Herro’s creativity and shooting could be decisive in the outcome of this series.
Al Horford and Marcus Smart were two of the key players for the Celtics in their 4-3 series win over defending NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks in the previous round. Horford lit up the latter games of the series with his scintillating shooting as the veteran wound back the clock to help the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Horford was a last-minute withdrawal due to health and safety protocols on Tuesday night, although Celtics head coach Ime Udoka didn’t confirm whether the 36-year-old had COVID. Horford was missed. Smart, the NBA Defensive Player Of The Year, suffered an ankle sprain in their Game 7 win over the Bucks and was always expected to be a doubt to feature at the ATX Arena. Smart was visible on the sidelines barking encouragement at his team-mates at the start of the fourth quarter with Heat starting to pull away from the Celtics. The pair’s absence was certainly felt, while the Heats’ PJ Tucker managed to battle through a knock in the first half to influence the outcome of Game 1 in the second half.
There were some spectacular blocks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Bam Adebayo’s block on Jaylen Brown in the sixth minute of the third quarter was stunning. The No13 had a point to prove after he missed out on Defensive Player Of The Year to Smart and his block left the ESPN commentators hailing his “athleticism” and “no quit mentality”. Adebayor later picked up a flagrant foul 1 for a contest with Robert Williams III. By the end of the third quarter, we’d been treated to another incredible block when Daniel Thiem rejected Dewayne Dedmon at the rim. There was 20 blocks overall, with the Heat leading the way with 12. Expect this series to get even more physical.