MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler scored 41 points, and the Miami Heat turned things around with an enormous third quarter on the solution to beating the short-handed Boston Celtics 118-107 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.
Tyler Herro scored 18 and Gabe Vincent added 17 for the Heat, who outscored Boston 39-14 within the third quarter. Butler had 17 alone within the third, outscoring the Celtics by himself over those 12 minutes.
Max Strus scored 11 and Bam Adebayo added 10 for Miami.
Jayson Tatum scored 29 for the Celtics, who were without starters Marcus Smart (foot) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols). Jaylen Brown added 24 for Boston, which got 18 apiece from Robert Williams III and Payton Pritchard.
Game 2 is Thursday.
Boston led by 13 in the primary half and took a 62-54 lead into halftime. Whatever Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said during intermission clearly worked.
A 22-2 run was how Miami began the second half, the run punctuated by steals that led to baskets on three consecutive possessions. Strus had one, the following two by Butler pushed the lead out to 76-64, and the Heat were off and running.
The lead reached 96-76 when Herro was fouled on a 3-point try to made all three free throws early within the fourth.
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Boston had a run left; a 10-0 spurt cut the deficit in half, and a 3-pointer from Tatum made it a nine-point game — end result still very much doubtful — with 7:35 left.
However the Heat had a response. PJ Tucker answered Tatum’s 3 with one in every of his own. Brown then connected from deep to get Boston inside single digits again, only to have that one answered by a 3 from Strus.
Among the plans that either side had for Game 1 were thrown away about 3 ½ hours before game time, when the Celtics revealed that Smart and Horford wouldn’t be playing. Smart’s absence was somewhat expected due to a mid-foot sprain he suffered in Game 7 of the East semifinals against Milwaukee on Sunday.
Horford’s absence, nonetheless, was a surprise.
He entered the league’s health and safety protocols Tuesday afternoon, which ruled him out of Game 1 and quite possibly could keep him out for multiple games going forward. And it’s not clear if some other Celtics may need testing.
“I’m truthfully unsure about that as of now,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said pregame.
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