Jimmy Butler scored 17 of his 41 points in an epic third-quarter uprising to help the host Miami Heat rally for a 118-107 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.
Butler also contributed nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots to help Miami overcome a 13-point, second-quarter deficit. The Heat outscored Boston 39-14 in the third quarter to seize a 93-76 lead entering the final stanza.
Tyler Herro registered 18 points and eight rebounds and Gabe Vincent scored 17 points for Miami.
Jayson Tatum recorded 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Robert Williams III added 18 points and nine rebounds and Payton Pritchard also scored 18 points for Boston.
Game 2 is Thursday night in Miami.
The Celtics played without NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart (right foot) and Al Horford (COVID-19 protocol). Williams started in Horford’s place, returning from a four-game absence caused by a left knee injury.
The Heat were without Kyle Lowry (left hamstring) for the seventh time in the past nine games.
Max Strus scored 11 points and Bam Adebayo added 10 points and four blocked shots for Miami. The Heat shot 48.8% from the field, including 10 of 30 from 3-point range.
Boston made 45.6% from the field and was 11 of 34 from behind the arc.
Miami opened the third quarter with a 22-2 burst to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 76-64 lead. Boston didn’t make a field goal for the first 7:07 of the period.
After the Celtics scored nine straight points to move within three, the Heat finished the quarter with a 17-3 surge to hold the 17-point edge. Boston shot just 13.3% (2 of 15) from the field in the period.
Herro was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws to give Miami a 96-76 lead with 10:45 left in the contest. Boston answered with 10 straight points and pulled within 96-86 on two free throws by Grant Williams with 8:21 remaining.
The Heat led by 13 after a 3-pointer by Strus with 3:18 left, but the Celtics scored eight of the next 10 points, with Pritchard’s trey pulling Boston within 114-107 with 1:29 left.
Two free throws by Vincent and a layup by Butler clinched it for Miami.
Tatum scored 21 first-half points as Boston held a 62-54 lead at the break. The Celtics shot a torrid 59.1% from the field in the half. Miami shot 48.8%.