Butler's Heat down Celtics in game 1 of NBA East finals
Jimmy Butler has dominated in the NBA playoffs again as his Miami Heat rallied to beat the Boston Celtics 123-116 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Butler scored 35 points, including 23 after halftime, in Wednesday night's game in Boston. He also added seven assists, six steals and five rebounds.
Miami trailed by nine at the half before outscoring Boston 66-50 over the final two quarters.
It was Butler's fifth game with 30 or more points this postseason.
"One of the premier two-way basketball players of this association. ... That's what we needed." Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
"Down the stretch Jimmy was able to do everything we needed – as a scorer and as a facilitator."
Bam Adebayo added 20 points and eight rebounds for the Heat while Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent and Max Strus all added 15 points apiece.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points. Jaylen Brown finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon added 19 points.
The No. 8-seeded Heat have opened all three playoff series with road victories. Game 2 is Friday in Boston.
The Celtics, who are at their best when they're defending and getting up more shots than their opponents, were 10 of 29 from beyond the arc.
"We lost our offensive purpose," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.
The tip-off of Wednesday's series marked the third time in four seasons that the Heat and Celtics have met in the conference finals. Boston won last year's matchup in seven games.
Wednesday's opener felt every bit like a continuation of that most recent meeting as Boston dominated inside early on and led by nine at halftime.
Spoelstra said his team were "more intentional" over the final 24 minutes.
Miami took a page out of the Celtics' book and used a 13-1 run to quickly erase that gap and then nudged back in front in the third quarter, as Butler penetrated to create opportunities for his teammates.
The Heat outscored the Celtics 46-25 in the period and took a 103-91 lead into the fourth, prompting a few boos from the TD Garden crowd.