September 20, 2021

Butler catches fire as Heat stun Bucks in opener

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Jimmy Butler hit three consecutive hoops down the stretch to cap a postseason career-high, 40-point performance on Monday night as the fifth-seeded Miami Heat stunned the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 115-104 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semi-final series in the NBA bubble.

Game leaders

Miami Heat

  • Points: Jimmy Butler – 40
  • Assists: Bam Adebayo – 6
  • Rebounds: Bam Adebayo – 17

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Points: Khris Middleton – 28
  • Assists: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 9
  • Rebounds: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 10

Heat lead series 1-0

Goran Dragic chipped in with 27 points and Bam Adebayo accumulated a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds as the Heat struck the first blow in the best-of-seven series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to 18 points in the loss, which was Milwaukee’s second straight in an opening game. The Bucks dropped Game 1 to Orlando in the first round before rebounding with four consecutive decisive wins.

Milwaukee came out on fire against Miami, pouring in 40 first-quarter points en route to an 11-point advantage. Antetokounmpo had half of his 18 points in that run.

But the Heat clawed back, getting within 63-60 by half-time before taking an 82-80 lead late in the third quarter on a pair of Tyler Herro free throws.

Milwaukee regained a 96-95 advantage on an Antetokounmpo lay-up with 6:04 to play, before Butler gave Miami the lead for good at 97-96 on a floater with 5:50 left.

It was still a one-point game before Butler’s decisive late flurry that included two short jumpers sandwiching a three-pointer, single-handedly pushing the Heat advantage to 106-98 with just 2:19 to play.

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Milwaukee got no closer than five after that.

Jimmy Butler celebrates a basket during Miami's stunning Game 1 win over the Bucks
Image: Butler celebrates a basket during Miami’s stunning Game 1 win over the Bucks

Butler’s 40 points came on 13-for-20 shooting and 12-for-13 accuracy from the free throw line. His previous postseason career-high was 36 points for Philadelphia against Brooklyn last season.

Herro was the fourth player in double figures with 11 points for the Heat, who outscored the Bucks 25-14 at the foul line.

Antetokounmpo’s 18 points were his fewest in a playoff game since he was held to 12 by Toronto in Game 3 of the Eastern Finals last season.

Despite his scoring problems, the defending MVP nearly completed a triple-double, recording team-highs in rebounds with 10 and assists with nine.

Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 28 points and Brook Lopez added 24 points. Kyle Korver finished with 11 points for the Bucks, who outshot the Heat 49.3 per cent to 46.4.

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