BOSTON (AP) – The Heat needed a reassuring presence after getting off to a rocky start in their most recent meeting with Boston in a conference finals.
Jimmy Butler contributed more than that.
He scored 35 points, including 23 after the break, and led Miami in the second half to beat the Celtics 123-116 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday.
Butler said it was his teammates who gave him the confidence.
“I’m playing at an incredible level because they allow me to do so,” he said. “They’re not putting any limits on my game. They trust me when I have the ball on the defensive end. I think that’s what any basketball player wants.”
Miami trailed by nine points at the half before reeling off 46 in the third quarter, a franchise postseason record. The Heat outscored Boston 66–50 in the final two quarters.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Butler, “He’s one of the most capable defensive and offensive players in the NBA … and that’s what we needed.” “Down the stretch, Jimmy was able to do everything we needed him to do. He was a scorer and a facilitator.
It was Butler’s fifth post-season game with 30 or more points. He added seven assists, six steals and five rebounds.
Bam Adebayo had 20 points and eight rebounds. Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent and Max Straus each scored 15 for the Heat, going 16 of 31 from 3-point range.
Eighth-seeded Miami has led all of its series openers with road wins in these playoffs. Game 2 is set for Friday in Boston.
Jason Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points, but did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Malcolm Brogdon added 19 points.
Boston is just 4-4 at home after this season.
“I don’t know why,” Tatum said of addressing the issues at home. “We’ve got to play the game, do what we’ve got to do, it doesn’t matter if we’re at home or away.”
The Celtics, who look their best on defense and take more shots than their opponents, were 10 of 29 from 3-point range.
“We lost our offensive business,” said coach Joe Majulla.