ORLANDO — Jimmy Butler showed why Miami wanted him in free agency last summer, and Goran Dragic reminded the NBA Luka Doncic isn’t the only Slovenian star in the league.
Butler scored a playoff career-high 40 points, and Dragic had 27 points as the Heat downed Milwaukee 115-104 Monday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
Butler had 27 points in the second half, including 15 in the fourth quarter. He simply took over when Miami needed it.
His three-pointer with 3:01 left in the fourth quarter gave Miami a 104-98 lead, and his next basket with 2:19 to go made it 106-98. Butler made important basket after important basket in the final quarter, and during one stretch of the third quarter, he scored 10 consecutive points.
Dragic has scored at least 20 points in Miami’s five playoff games.
For the second consecutive series, the Bucks dropped Game 1. But the stakes are higher now, and Miami is better than Orlando, the Bucks’ first-round foe.
The blueprint for the Milwaukee-Miami series is set. Make the opponent hit three-pointers, try to limit points in the paint, and in the Heat’s case, slow Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Jimmy Butler celebrates after making one of his 13 field goals. He finished with 40 points. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
The Heat, who haven’t lost in the playoffs, were able to execute their game plan just a smidgen better. After giving up 63 points in the first half, the Heat held Milwaukee to 41 points in the final two quarters.
Miami outscored Milwaukee 25-14 from the foul line – the Bucks were a rotten 53.8 percent from the line – in an area that undoubtedly perturbed Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. And the Bucks allowed 42 points in the paint after allowing an NBA-best 38.7 points in the paint per game in the regular season.
Miami’s Bam Adebayo contributed 12 points and 17 rebounds.
For Antetokounmpo, it was a quiet game though it was nearly a triple-double: 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. But he made just 4 of 12 foul shots.
Khris Middleton had a team-high 28 points, Brook Lopez had 23 points and Kyle Korver scored 11 off the bench for Milwaukee.
Follow USA TODAY Sports NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt
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