MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler scored 41 points and the Miami Heat turned things around with a huge third quarter en route to beating the undermanned Boston Celtics 118-107 in Game 1 of Tuesday night’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Tyler Herro scored 18 and Gabe Vincent added 17 for the Heat, which outplayed Boston 39-14 in the third quarter. Butler had 17 in the third alone, surpassing the Celtics alone in those 12 minutes.
Max Strus scored 11 and Bam Adebayo added 10 for Miami.
Jayson Tatum scored 29 points for the Celtics, who were without starters Marcus Smart (foot) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols). Jaylen Brown added 24 for Boston, who received 18 each from Robert Williams III and Payton Pritchard.
Game 2 is Thursday.
Boston led by 13 in the first half and went into halftime 62-54. Whatever Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said during the break clearly worked.
Miami started the second half on a 22-2 run, the run broken by steals that resulted in baskets on three consecutive possessions. Strus had one, Butler’s next two extended the lead to 76-64 and the Heat was up and running.
The lead reached 96-76 when Herro was fouled on a 3-point try and made all three free throws early in the fourth.
Boston had one run left; A 10-0 sprint halved the deficit, and a 3-point play from Tatum made it a nine-point game – the result is still very much in doubt – with 7:35 to go.
But the heat had an answer. PJ Tucker answered Tatum’s 3 with one of his own. Brown then connected from deep to bring Boston back to single digits, only for Strus to respond with a 3.
Some of the plans both sides had for Game 1 were scrapped about 3 1/2 hours before game time when the Celtics announced that Smart and Horford would not be playing. Smart’s absence had been somewhat expected due to a metatarsal sprain he sustained in Game 7 of the East semifinals against Milwaukee on Sunday.
However, Horford’s absence came as a surprise.
He entered league health and safety protocols on Tuesday afternoon that ruled him out of Game 1 and could potentially keep him out for several games in the future. And it’s not clear if other Celtics need to be tested.
“To be honest, I’m unsure at the moment,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka before the game.
Celtics: Boston’s biggest lead was 13 points. The Celtics are now 46-7 this season in games they’ve led at least that many. … Boston scored 18 points in the first 6 ½ minutes of the first half, then two points in the first 6 ½ minutes of the second half. … The Celtics were just 16 seconds behind in the first two quarters. … Boston has dropped 17 of its last 26 East Finals games.
Heat: Former Miami guard Goran Dragic was in attendance. … That streak marks the 50th in Heat’s postseason history. They are now 28-22 in Game 1s. … Butler’s 15th point – a free throw 16 seconds into the second half – gave him 14,000 for his career, including playoffs. He is the 220th NBA player to score that many goals. … Miami missed its first seven shots. … Tucker went in the second quarter to get his right ankle re-taped and then returned for the second half.
There were 20 blocked shots in the game – 12 by Miami, eight by Boston.
SECOND BEST (AND WORST)
The 25-point difference in the third quarter was the second-best for the Heat and second-worst for the Celtics this season. Miami surpassed Charlotte by 27 points in the third quarter on Feb. 5. Boston was outperformed by Chicago on Nov. 1 in the fourth quarter.
Boston didn’t have a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half — the slowest start to a half in all of the Celtics’ 94 games this season. The previous low for field goals scored by the Celtics in the 6:00 opening half this season, including the playoffs, was one in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 7.
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