Butler scores 45 points, Heat defeats Hawks 115-105 for a 2-0 lead

MIAMI – Jimmy Butler got off the floor after a night’s work, raised his arms in the air and was heard a packed arena serenading him with screams.

That didn’t happen in the bubble two years ago, there was nobody there.

But Butler was just as good Tuesday night as he was during that blister run — and the Miami Heat needed all his exploits.

Butler posted a playoff career-high 45 points, including a personal 7-0 run down the stretch to decide the game, and the Heat held off the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Tuesday night.

“We go as he goes,” Heat Warden Gabe Vincent said.

Butler was 15 of 25 from the floor, 11 of 12 from the line, and 4 of 7 from 3-point range. This means the top seeded Heat go to Atlanta with a 2-0 lead.

Tyler Herro scored 15 for Miami while Max Strus scored 14 and Vincent added 11 for top seed Miami.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 19 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter for Atlanta. Trae Young got his scoring touch back — he had 25 points in Game 2 after being held to eight in Game 1 — but also had a career-worst 10 turnovers for the 8th-seeded Hawks.


“If the umpires just let them be as physical as they are and don’t call fouls, it’s going to be hard to really do anything anyway,” Young said.

De’Andre Hunter had 16 and John Collins finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks.

Butler’s previous playoff best was 40, made twice, both in the bubble, as The Heat advanced to the 2020 NBA Finals. The Heat needed all of his heroics back then, and they needed them all on Tuesday too.

Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer with 3:15 left put Atlanta within 104-101.

From then on it was all butler.

“Great basketball from a great basketball player, one of the best two-way players in the game,” said heat guard Kyle Lowry.

Butler had a dunk, a 3-pointer and another dunk – all in a span of 56 seconds – to take things from iffy to locked, taking Miami to 10 with 1:20 minutes remaining and ensuring the Heat took the victory would end.

“Just stay aggressive,” Butler said. “I’ll take what the defense gives me.”


As might be expected in a playoff series, pleasantries began to be exchanged with greater regularity. The first half saw 16 fouls by Atlanta and 14 by Miami — a season-high for the Hawks, one below the season-high for the Heat, and those 30 personals didn’t even include a double technical that Lowry and Hunter got face-to-face.

Young picked up a technical error for arguing a foul on him late in the third round, the capper to a period that saw the Heat go from just ahead to holders of a double-digit lead in the final 12 minutes. He played the entire third quarter but only managed two shots in that span – he made both – and missed the foul line while committing five turnovers in that period alone.

“I think the difference in tonight’s game was the turnovers,” said Hawks coach Nate McMillan. “You can’t have 19 turnovers in a playoff game and expect to win games. You scored 21 points less than our turnovers. A lot of that came in transition… and I figured that would make the difference.


The first half was back and forth, the game mostly ending in the first quarters, and Kevin Huerter’s stepback-3 pointer with 8:59 in the third drew Atlanta within 64-62. The Hawks went almost three minutes without another goal, and the game looked very different after those three minutes.

The Heat went 4 to 4 in that stretch – 3 points from Butler, PJ Tucker and Strus, with a layup from Butler – and it added up to an 11-0 run that extended the lead to 75-62. The lead stayed at at least eight points for the next 11 minutes before Atlanta began to fight back.

Young hit Collins with a layup shot, and Bogdanovic’s long jump put Atlanta 94-90 in the middle of the fourth.

But the Hawks never took the lead. Butler made sure of that. He said a conversation with Tucker Monday night resonated — Tucker basically told him to score more — and Butler was clearly listening.


“Just elite two-way basketball that he showed tonight,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.


Hawks: Atlanta had three players (Hunter, Huerter and Bogdanovic) with three fouls at halftime for only the second time this season. The other was January 14 – also in Miami. …Among the adjustments the Hawks attempted: Collins started Game 2, and Huerter opened the game by guarding Lowry.

Heat: Duncan Robinson, who made eight 3s and scored 27 points in Game 1, went without a shot in seven minutes. … Football legend David Beckham was in attendance. … At the end of the regular season, Miami is 8-1 in their last nine games. … Miami is now 5-1 against Atlanta this season.

2-0 LEAD

Teams that go 2-0 up in a best-of-seven match eventually win the series 92.4% of the time. The Hawks have never recovered from 0-2 down in a series (0-25) and the Heat have never squandered a 2-0 lead (17-0) — but there have been four such rallies in the playoffs of the last season, two from the Los Angeles Clippers and two more from Milwaukee.



Atlanta is now hosting Games 3 and 4. As of Jan. 17, the Hawks are the NBA’s top players at home, 20-3.


Game 3 is Friday in Atlanta.


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Joel McCord

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