A Jimmy Butler Masterclass Propelled The Heat To A Game 1 Win Over The Celtics

After a first half in which the Boston Celtics looked like they were flying high, the Miami Heat came out of the locker room at halftime and made quite the statement. Thanks to Jimmy Butler imposing his will on the game and a third quarter that will go down as one of the best team performances we’ve seen in a 12-minute stretch this postseason, the Heat picked up a 118-107 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Some stellar play in the first half by Jayson Tatum helped Boston open the game on a 7-0 run and respond whenever Miami would make things close. Perhaps the most impactful stretch came early on in the second quarter, when the Celtics ripped of nine points in a row to go up by 11 β€” while the Heat cut into that a tick, Boston was able to take a 62-54 lead into the locker room.

Tatum, as he’s done so many times this postseason, stepped up to help the team lead by as many as 13 in the first two quarters. He scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting with five assists and eight rebounds in the opening half against Miami’s vaunted defense.

Two players who needed to step up in a big way with Marcus Smart and Al Horford sidelined did that to start the game, too, as Payton Pritchard had 10 with four rebounds in the first half and Robert Williams, finally healthy after being limited against the Milwaukee Bucks, had 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting with five rebounds and a pair of blocks.

The 1-2 punch of Tyler Herro and Butler gave the Heat reason for optimism heading into the locker room despite the deficit β€” the former led the team with 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, and a steal, while the latter scored 14 with five boards.

Miami took the floor after halftime firing on all cylinders. Perhaps they got the rust off from their five-day break between games in the first half, perhaps finishing a grueling seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks two days ago finally caught up to the Celtics, or perhaps any other number of things happened. But no matter what, thanks to a 22-2 run in which everything went right on offense and defense, Miami was able to wrestle the lead away and get the home crowd buzzing.

While Boston responded with a 10-2 run to get the lead down to four, it wasn’t nearly enough. Powered by a 17-point period from Butler, Heat won the quarter, 39-14, and took a convincing 93-76 lead into the fourth.

The Celtics came out to start the fourth and repeatedly chipped away, but any time they got it down to a nine or 10 point deficit, someone on the Heat had an answer. By the time Boston got the deficit down to its most manageable, it was far too late β€” a three by Pritchard to make it seven came as Ime Udoka planned to empty out his bench.

Butler’s brilliance, in particular, was just far too much for the Celtics to overcome. Whenever Miami needed something, their All-NBA wing willed it into existence on both ends of the floor. To end the night, he scored 41 points on 12-for-19 shooting (without attempting a single shot from three) while hitting 17 of his 18 attempts from the charity stripe along with nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, three blocks, and only two turnovers.

Herro gave the Heat 18 points and eight rebounds all the bench, while Vincent had one of his best games during Kyle Lowry’s postseason absence, going for 17 points. Tatum, Williams, Pritchard, and Jaylen Brown combined to score 89 points, but it was not enough.

Game 2 between the Heat and Celtics will take place on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.