Jimmy Butler dropped 41 points, and the Miami Heat outscored the Boston Celtics 64-45 in the second half to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 117-108.
Butler’s 41-point effort is his fifth of the postseason. He is the second player in franchise history to record five 40+ point efforts.
Coming out of the break, Boston was up by eight; just three minutes into the third quarter, Miami took a lead they would never surrender after Butler knocked down a put-back layup. The lead-changing layup was a part of a game-changing 22-2 run punctuated by back-to-back-back steals from Max Strus and Butler to take a 10-point.
That double-digit lead eventually grew to 20 points after Tyler Herro hit three free throws a 1:15 into the fourth quarter after getting fouled on a three-point attempt.
“Keep the game easy,” Butler said about what was said in the locker room during halftime. “Simple. We gotta learn how to capitalize off of their mistakes, and we gotta get back. I think that’s what changed in the second half.”
Butler was the catalyst for Miami imposing their will in the second half. The Marquette alum scored 27 points in the second half, along with three assists, three steals, and four rebounds (two on the offensive glass).
When Boston tried to capitalize on a 10-0 run that cut Miami’s lead to nine points with 7:35 seconds left on the clock, Miami continued to impose their will, silencing Boston each time they made it a single-digit game with triples from P.J. Tucker and Strus.
Their job on Jayson Tatum illustrated Miami’s second-half effort. Miami held the Duke alum to eight points after Tatum scored 21 in the first half, tied for a career-high in the first half. The defensive intensity on Tatum was highlighted by Butler blocking Tatum on a three-pointer from the left corner pocket. Miami also forced the St. Louis native to turn the ball over seven times.
“Contesting every shot,’ Butler said about Miami’s key to defending Tatum in the second half. “Try not to foul; he’s crafty as hell and just putting multiple bodies in front of him.”
Boston will look to tie the Eastern Conference Finals when they face Miami on Thursday’s Game 6.