NBA playoffs: Heat defeat Hawks for 2-0 lead; Pelicans stun Suns to tie series
Jimmy Butler scored a playoff career-high 45 points, including a personal 7-0 run in the final moments, and the Miami Heat held off the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Tuesday night.
Tyler Herro scored 15 for Miami, while Max Strus scored 14 and Gabe Vincent added 11 for top-seeded Miami, which took a 2-0 lead over the eighth-seeded Hawks.
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 19 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter for Atlanta. Trae Young scored 25 for the Hawks, while 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, done twice, both in the bubble when the Heat made the 2020 NBA Finals. The Heat needed all of his heroics then, and they needed them all on Tuesday as well.
Bogdanovic’s three-pointer with 3:15 left got Atlanta within 104-101.
From there, it was all Butler.
He had a dunk, a three-pointer and another dunk — all in the span of 56 seconds — to turn things from in doubt to locked down, putting Miami up 10 with 1:20 remaining and ensuring the Heat would finish off the win.
“Just staying aggressive,“ Butler said. “Taking what the defense gives me.“
As would be expected in a playoff series, pleasantries began being exchanged with more regularity. The first half featured 16 fouls by Atlanta and 14 by Miami — a season-high for the Hawks, one off the season-high for the Heat, and those 30 personals didn’t even include a double technical that Lowry and Hunter got for getting face-to-face.
Young picked up a technical for arguing a foul against him late in the third as well, the capper to a period where the Heat went from barely ahead to holders of a double-digit lead going into the final 12 minutes. He played the entire third quarter, but managed only two shots in that span — making both — and didn’t get to the foul line, while committing five turnovers in that period alone.
And in time, Miami hit its stride.
Kevin Huerter’s stepback three-pointer with 8:59 left in the third pulled Atlanta within 64-62. The Hawks went nearly three minutes without scoring again, and the game looked very different after those three minutes.
The Heat went four for four in that stretch — three-pointers by Butler, P.J. Tucker and Strus, with a layup by Butler in there as well — and it added up to an 11-0 run that pushed the lead out to 75-62. The margin remained at least eight points for the next 11 minutes, before Atlanta began clawing back.
Young hit Collins with a strike for a layup, and Bogdanovic’s long jumper got Atlanta within 94-90 midway through the fourth.
But the Hawks never got the lead. Butler saw to that.
Grizzlies 124, Timberwolves 96
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ja Morant scored 23 points and handed out 10 assists as the Memphis Grizzlies looked much more like the team that posted the NBA’s second-best record, routing the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-96 on Tuesday night to even up their first-round Western Conference series at 1 apiece.
Morant went to the bench with 4:40 left to a huge ovation. He finished a rebound shy of a triple-double. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. each added 16 with Jackson hitting four of seven from three-point range as the Grizzlies finished with seven in double figures.
Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr. and Ziaire Williams each had 13. Tyus Jones added 10.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Minneapolis.
Anthony Edwards, who scored 36 points in his playoff debut in Game 1, led Minnesota with 20. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Naz Reid and Taurean Prince had 12 each off the bench, and D’Angelo Russell added 11.
The Timberwolves dominated the series opener after scoring a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter.
This time, officials stayed very busy calling 20 fouls in a very long first quarter. That kept the NBA’s top scoring teams in the regular season from getting into any rhythm as they combined to shoot 33 free throws.
At one point, Memphis had Steven Adams, Jackson, Clarke and Dillon Brooks on the bench with two fouls. That forced coach Taylor Jenkins to turn to Tillman who didn’t play in Game 1, and he turned in the best playoff game of his young career.
The Grizzlies grabbed their biggest lead of this short series at 30-23 on a floater by Jones with 2:11 left, and they led 33-32 after the first quarter when Morant’s long buzzer-beater attempt hit off the rim and off.
Memphis started running in the second and opened the quarter with an 11-2 run and finished on an 11-5 run for a 60-49 lead at halftime with Morant not scoring a point. Patrick Beverley summed up Minnesota’s struggles when his layup before the buzzer rolled off the rim.
The Grizzlies pushed that lead to as much as 27 with a 25-9 run in the third, and Morant scored 12 in the quarter hitting five of seven shots, including both three-pointers. His layup gave Memphis an 87-60 lead with 4:15 to go in the third, and the Grizzlies led 96-77 going into the fourth.
Minnesota was the NBA’s best-shooting team outside the arc and outscored Memphis 48-21 in Game 1 as the Grizzlies shot 26% outside the arc with only three knocking down a three-pointer. This time, Memphis shot 11 for 34 with six Grizzlies knocking down at least one.
Pelicans 125, Suns 114
PHOENIX (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 37 points, CJ McCollum added 23 and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the top-seeded Phoenix Suns 125-114 on Tuesday night in Game 2, evening the series in their Western Conference first-round matchup.
Not only did the Suns lose the game, but they’re also unsure about the health status of All-Star guard Devin Booker, who was spectacular in the first half with 31 points before leaving with right hamstring tightness in the third quarter.
The Suns — who led the NBA with a franchise-record 64 wins during the regular season — trailed 77-74 when he departed.
Phoenix kept the game close without its leading scorer and even took a lead early in the fourth, but the Pelicans rallied, getting big threes from Jose Alvarado, Ingram and McCollum to take an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.
Ingram added tough back-to-back jumpers in the closing minutes to keep a final Suns rally at bay. New Orleans earned its first playoff win since 2018.
Ingram finished 13 of 21 shooting from the field.
Game 3 is on Friday in New Orleans.
The Pelicans acknowledged they were a little surprised by the intensity of their Game 1 loss, especially during the first half when they fell into a 19-point halftime hole. They didn’t make the same mistake Tuesday, taking a 30-28 lead after one quarter.
The Suns rallied for a 61-56 halftime advantage thanks to Booker scoring spree. He scored all of his 31 in the first half on 12 of 18 shooting, including seven of 10 from three-point range. He hit a 30-footer just before the halftime buzzer after the Pelicans inexplicably left him open.
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