NBA: Butler, Heat cruise past slumping Celtics

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at May 10 2021 04:55 AM

Jimmy Butler, pictured here against the Timberwolves, was stellar in the Heat's win over the Celtics Sunday. Jeffrey Becker, USA Today Sports/Reuters

Jimmy Butler finished strong with 22 of his 26 points in the second half as the Miami Heat strengthened their hold on the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 130-124 win over the host Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon.

Despite Butler having only four points at halftime, the Heat managed to build a 26-point lead to help hold off Boston's fourth-quarter push. Butler also contributed 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Duncan Robinson scored 22 points, Bam Adebayo added 20 and Trevor Ariza scored all but two of his 19 points in the first half for the Heat.

Miami (37-31) leads Boston (35-33) by two games for the final seed in the East that guarantees avoiding the play-in round. The teams will meet for a second straight game in Boston on Tuesday night.

The Heat have won five of six and nine of their last 12 games overall.

Evan Fournier scored a game-high 30 and Jayson Tatum added 29 for the Celtics. Kemba Walker totaled 18 points while Marcus Smart and Aaron Nesmith chipped in 16 apiece.

Boston was without All-Star forward Jaylen Brown, who missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle he suffered last Sunday against Portland. Brown was listed as "questionable" before the game.

The Celtics have dropped seven of their last 11 games. Boston has a 1 1/2-game lead over the eighth-place Charlotte Hornets, who play the New Orleans Pelicans later Sunday.

Five Heat players had scored in double figures at the break as Miami built a 79-53 advantage. Miami's first-half scoring output was its second-highest in franchise history and marked the most points allowed by Boston in any half this season.

Boston trimmed its deficit to 21 after three quarters before Tatum's layup with 5:25 left brought the Celtics within single digits for the first time since the opening quarter at 113-105.

Walker's floater with 4:51 to go brought Boston within six before Butler made his first 3-pointer in nearly a month at the other end. The Celtics were unable to get their deficit below six in the closing minutes.

Heat guard Victor Oladipo (knee) did not travel for the two games in Boston.

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