Jimmy Butler hit three consecutive hoops down the stretch to cap a postseason career-high, 40-point performance last night as the fifth-seeded Miami Heat stunned the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 115-104 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in the NBA bubble near Orlando.
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, who won the season series 2-1 from the Bucks, got the jump in the best-of-seven.
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 halftime 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 layup 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 3-pointer, single-handedly pushing the Heat advantage to 106-98 with just 2:19 to play.
Milwaukee got no closer than five after that.
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 76ers against Brooklyn Nets 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, he 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 percent to 46.4.
Chris Paul scored a team-high 28 points and carried the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-100 victory over the Houston Rockets yesterday, forcing a decisive seventh game in the teams’ Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with the winner advancing to oppose the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semifinals.
Paul tallied 15 points in the fourth quarter and drilled back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Thunder even at 98-98 with 2:57 remaining. His two free throws with 13.1 seconds left provided the winning margin for the Thunder.
Paul added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 40 turnover-free minutes. The Rockets, conversely, committed 22 turnovers, including seven from Russell Westbrook, whose errant pass following the Paul free throws sealed the defeat for the mistake-prone Rockets.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 32 points and also had eight rebounds and seven assists but committed five turnovers. Robert Covington added 18 points, five steals and three blocks for Houston but was the defender on both Paul treys and committed the foul that placed Paul at the line late.
There were 14 lead changes and 11 ties. The Thunder surged back into contention with a 16-3 run that bridged the final two periods, pushing to an 85-78 lead in the process.
Danilo Gallinari chipped in 25 points for Oklahoma City and Luguentz Dort, who shot 0-for-9 from behind the arc in Game 5, hit two 3-pointers as part of the run that lifted the Thunder back in contention in the third.
Westbrook scored 17 points while Eric Gordon missed 9 of 12 shots and had nine points for Houston.
The Rockets and Thunder combined for 10 turnovers and 5-for-22 3-point shooting in what was a ragged first quarter, but Harden provided the Rockets a bit of stability in the second. He amassed 17 points, four rebounds and four assists prior to the intermission, and his length-of-the-court pass to Gordon resulted in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that provided Houston a 51-48 lead at the break. (Reuters)