Jimmy Butler poured in 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots – numbers never seen before in an NBA playoff game – as he led the Miami Heat to a 118-107 comeback victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“MVP Jimmy did his thing. He put us on his back,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said after the game.
Despite losing two of their starters – Marcus Smart and Al Horford – hours before the tip-off, the Celtics kicked off Game 1 strongly with a 7-0 run.
In the first half, Boston led by as much as 13 and went into halftime 62-54 up with forward Jayson Tatum tying a career playoff-high in scoring for one half as he contributed 21 points.
Then, the game turned on its head after halftime.
A minute into the third quarter with the Heat trailing the Celtics by a point, Gabe Vincent’s three-point attempt bounced off the rim. Butler grabbed the offensive rebound and converted a layup, putting Miami ahead for just the second time in the game.
In the third quarter alone, Butler himself outscored the entire Celtics squad 17-14 as Boston conceded eight turnovers and shot 2-for-15 from the field – its worst shooting percentage in any quarter over the last four seasons.
“I continued to play basketball the right way: shoot the ball when I’m open, attack, hit the open guy,” Butler told reporters after the game. “Honestly, it was a team effort.”
Although the Celtics rallied in the fourth quarter – outscoring the Heat over the 12 minutes and hauling themselves back within nine points with 7:35 left – the damage had already been done.
“They were down at halftime and came out and played hard in the third quarter,” Tatum told reporters after the game.
“It’s on me, I had six turnovers. I’ve got to take care of the ball better, especially in those situations when they’re going on runs like that.”
Tatum had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Celtics while Jaylen Brown had a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Vincent, filling in for six-time NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry at point guard, also starred for the Heat and contributed 17 points.
It is the third time that the Celtics and the Heat have faced each other in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Miami winning both previous occasions.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Thursday in Miami.