Jimmy Butler scores 35 as Miami Heat take Game 1 over the Celtics

Jimmy Butler scored 35 points and the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics, 123-116, to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and steal home-court advantage.

The Heat came back from 14 points down, outscoring the Celtics 46-25 in the third quarter to take the lead. Besides Butler, Miami’s offense was powered by a 16 for 31 performance from 3-point range. Bam Adebayo added 20 points on 9 of 13 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists.

Miami has won Game 1 on the road to start every series during this postseason run.

Jimmy Butler out-dueled Jayson Tatum when it mattered most

For three quarters, Butler and Tatum traded shots. The Heat had erased a 13-point deficit and took a 12-point lead heading into the final frame in large part thanks to Butler’s 27 points in his first 31 minutes. Tatum, meanwhile, had been the most consistent part of Boston’s offense, and had 24 points in his first 33 minutes. Though the Heat had the lead, they knew better than to count the Celtics out. There were still 12 minutes left to play.

Butler played all of them, tallying eight points, two assists and three steals. After picking his spots for most of three quarters, Butler went mismatch hunting. He’d drag a target into a pick-and-roll, drive and lift off for a mid-range jumper.

Butler moved on that right ankle better than he has since first spraining it in Game 1 of the last round against the Knicks. He was getting more lift on his shots and finding teammates with jump passes. It was the first time Butler scored 30 since averaging nearly 37 in the first round against the Bucks.

Tatum played eight of those fourth-quarter minutes, finishing with six points but zero field goal attempts in the period. His pair of free throws cut Miami’s lead to five with just under five minutes to play. But over the next 4:49, Butler scored four points and had two steals and an assist. Tatum made two foul shots and went several possessions in a row without touching the ball.

The Heat got this win for many reasons — defense tightening up in the second half, shooting nearly 52% from 3-point range, committing just 12 turnovers — but the biggest reason for optimism for Miami is that Butler looked like the best player in this series.