NBA: Heat edge Celtics in thriller to take East finals opener


Posted at Sep 16 2020 09:31 AM | Updated as of Sep 16 2020 01:16 PM

NBA: Heat edge Celtics in thriller to take East finals opener 1
Head coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat came away with a thrilling overtime win over the Celtics in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals duel. AFP

Jimmy Butler readily steps up when the Miami Heat need timely baskets. 

His heroics to start the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday (US time) may have gone to waste, though, without Bam Adebayo stepping into the limelight.

Goran Dragic scored 29 points, and Butler delivered key baskets down the stretch of regulation and overtime, as the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 117-114 to take Game 1 of their series.

Butler, who finished with 20 points, had been quiet leading up to crunch time in the fourth quarter, where he hit a corner 3-pointer that helped the Heat force an extension. 

There, he completed a 3-point play with 12 seconds remaining off a Jayson Tatum foul to put Miami up 116-114, before Bam Adebayo secured victory with a block on Tatum's drive in the ensuing play. 

"He is the heart and soul of our team on the defensive end," Butler said of Adebayo. "We love and appreciate him. I know I sure do."

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Tatum finished with game-highs of 30 points and 14 rebounds for Boston, which had opportunities to take the win. Miami, though, found a way to make plays on both ends of the floor to grind out the win.

"He made a great play," Tatum said of Adebayo's block. "That's all it is. He made a good play, can't do anything about it."

Adebayo said: "It was a great win. We're up 1-0, but we got three more to get."

The Celtics took a 105-100 lead on a Kemba Walker basket, before a triple each by Tyler Herro and Butler put Miami up 106-105 with 22 seconds on the clock.

A Tatum free throw tied the game, and his miss from behind the arc in the dying seconds meant overtime. 

Miami outscored Boston 35-23 in the fourth, after falling behind 85-71 at one point in the quarter.

In the extension, the Heat went on a 7-0 run capped by an Adebayo dunk putting them back in the driver's seat 113-110 with 2 minutes left. 

With 24 seconds on the game clock, Walker scored on a jumper as Boston pulled ahead 114-113, setting up the crucial Butler and-1. 

"My job is to help our team win in the fourth and overtime. I try to pull through as much as I can," said Butler, of the game-winning basket.

Tatum tried to send the game to another 5 minutes, but Adebayo denied him at the basket. 

"Gotta tip your hat off to those guys," Marcus Smart said. "They executed very well down the stretch, we didn't."

Jae Crowder finished with 22 points to go with 5 3-pointers for Miami, which shot 16 of 36 from 3-point territory (44.4%).

Smart chipped in 26 points and 6 3-pointers, while backup point guard Brad Wanamaker added 11 points, 5 assists and 6 steals for Boston, which was outscored 48-26 in points in the paint. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse