NBA Playoffs Update: Miami Rides Big Third Quarter to Game 1 Win Over the Celtics

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NBA Playoffs Update: Miami Rides Big Third Quarter to Game 1 Win Over the Celtics

Chicago Bulls

Boston chalked this one up to one bad quarter. Still, Jimmy Butler’s performance told a more telling story in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals, if you ask anyone in a Miami uniform. As Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said last night, Butler raises his level of play on the highest stages, and last night was no different.

Heat 118, Celtics 107

Series: MIA leads 1-0

Trailing the Celtics by eight at the half, Miami looked like they might be on their way to letting one get away with Boston down two starters on their home floor. Fortunately for them, a masterclass on defense in the third quarter helped Miami right the ship in Game 1.

If anyone will give Luka Dončić a run for the best individual player in these playoffs, it will be Jimmy Butler. Like the bulldog that he is, Butler scored a crucial 17 points in a pivotal third quarter for the Miami Heat. In the third quarter, Butler and the Heat ratcheted up the defensive pressure and outscored the Celtics 39-14. Boston scored a whopping 42 points in the paint in the first half, and they opened the third quarter looking to continue to cash in from the paint, but Miami was having none of it as they blocked shots and poked away balls at a feverish rate.

The Heat stole the ball seven times and blocked five shots in the quarter, and Jimmy Butler logged three of his four steals in that quarter as the Heat came out of it with a commanding 93-76 lead. Jimmy Butler finished last night’s game with 41 points in 41 minutes of action while logging 9 rebounds and 4 steals, and 3 blocks while shooting 17-0f-18 from the free-throw line. Butler said after the game that he plays to win, not to score 40 points, but if scoring 40 points is what it takes, then so be it.

“I think I speak for my teammates and the Miami organization when I say I know what I am capable of,” Butler said. “I don’t do this to score 40. … If I score 40 and we lose, I’m going to be really pissed off.”

Jimmy Butler has scored 40 or more points three times this postseason, and he’s accomplished that five times in his three postseasons with Miami. Do you know how many times Butler has scored 40 points in a regular-season game during his three seasons with Miami? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Plain and simple, Playoff Jimmy is just a completely different animal than regular-season Jimmy and probably anyone else in these playoffs. There’s plenty of basketball left in these conference finals, but I can’t help but dream of a Luka Dončić vs. Jimmy Butler dog fight in the NBA Finals.

“Jimmy just really inspired everybody in that third quarter,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after the game. “Those two steals kind of changed the momentum, and every pocket in the game, when we needed control, take the right shot or make the right play, Jimmy had his fingerprints all over it.”

As for the Celtics, they were just blindsided by the Miami defensive pressure in the third quarter and they couldn’t recover from the blow without two of their starters in the lineup. Jayson Tatum scored 29 points for Boston in the losing effort, but 21 of them came in the first half. Tatum said after the game that we should expect a much better performance from the Celtics in Game 2 on Thursday night.

“Expect us to play better, expect myself to play a lot better,” Tatum said.

Game 2 is set for Thursday night in Miami, and the Celtics will have to do a much better job of containing Jimmy Butler, especially if they’re still without Al Horford and Marcus Smart.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.