Jimmy Butler willed his Miami Heat team past the Milwaukee Bucks in the first game of their Eastern Conference semis on Monday night with a 40-point outing, a career postseason high for the former Marquette star.
Miami, who came off a week’s rest after completing a sweep of the Indiana Pacers last Monday, took a 1-0 lead with a 115-104 win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, who had way less time to recover from their first-round series with the Orlando Magic.
The Bucks led for most of the game, going up by as much as 11. However, Butler’s poise saw the Heat steal the advantage heading into the fourth quarter and Miami’s new favorite son made several huge plays down the stretch to keep his side out in front.
The Heat’s defense kept Giannis at bay, with the reigning MVP and new Defensive Player of the Year scoring 18 points as he converted just four of his 12 free throw attempts. Khris Middleton, however, scored 28 and was the Bucks’ biggest threat.
The Bucks lost the first game of their last series to the Magic, while the Heat have not tasted defeat since the start of the playoffs, having won five straight heading into Wednesday’s Game 2 clash.
The win marked Miami’s third victory over the Bucks this season and they have shown that they have what it takes to subdue the Greek Freak. Milwaukee, though, will need to find a way to stop Butler to avoid a repeat of Monday’s disappointment.