Jimmy Butler helps Heat rally past Celtics for 2-0 lead in Eastern Conference finals

The Heat's Jimmy Butler reacts after scoring against the Celtics during Game 2 on May 19, 2023.
The Heat’s Jimmy Butler reacts after scoring against the Celtics during Game 2 on Friday night in Boston. Butler had 27 points in Miami’s 111-105 victory that gave it a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Jimmy Butler went forehead-to-forehead with the Boston Celtics and came away with another decisive victory.

Butler scored 27 points, hitting back-to-back buckets to tie the score and give Miami the lead, and the eighth-seeded Heat left Boston with a 111-105 victory Friday night and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Butler added eight rebounds and six assists. When Grant Williams started jawing with the Miami star — with both players drawing technical fouls for the double head-butt — Butler stared down Williams and the Heat refused to relent.


“I love that gnarly version of Jimmy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But you get that regardless. I think now people are just paying more attention. ... Jimmy is just a real competitor.”

Miami's Jimmy Butler, center left, and Boston's Grant Williams butt heads during the second half May 19, 2023.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler, center left, and Boston’s Grant Williams get up close and personal during the second half.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

Bam Adebayo had 22 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, and Caleb Martin came off the bench to score 25 points for Miami, which returns home with a chance to sweep and become just the second No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals.

Game 3 is Sunday night.

Jayson Tatum had 34 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for Boston. But the Celtics star went 0 for 3 with two turnovers in the fourth quarter, when second-seeded Boston blew an 89-77 lead en route to a second home loss in three nights. Jaylen Brown scored 16 points on seven-for-23 shooting; he went one for five with a turnover in the final quarter, when Miami outscored Boston 36-22.

“We’ve got some dogs, and I love it. I love every bit of it,” Butler said on the postgame TV broadcast. “Guys never quit. We never give up. We love playing with one another. We’ve got so much faith and trust in one another.”

The Lakers signature three-point celebration, which resembles D’Angelo Russell’s old “ice in my veins” pose, is an ode to TV’s “Freeze, Miami Vice!”

May 19, 2023

The Celtics led by 11 points in the third quarter and made it a dozen early in the fourth. It was a 96-87 lead for Boston when Butler scored and was fouled by Williams; the two players leaned into each other — drawing double technical fouls — before Butler hit the ensuing free throw.


“Some healthy competition. I ain’t going to lie to you. Healthy competition. And I love it. I’m always here to compete. I like to talk, at times,” Butler said. “As long as we get the win, I’m good with it.”

After Tatum missed from long distance — one of three missed three-point tries in the fourth quarter — Butler drove to the basket to make it a four-point Boston lead. Miami trailed 98-96 when Butler was called for an offensive foul, kicking Marcus Smart after landing on a missed three-point attempt.

Anthony Davis’ failure to deliver when the Lakers needed him the most in Game 2 against the Denver Nuggets might have cost the Lakers the series.

May 19, 2023

Spoelstra challenged the call but lost.

Butler responded.

He made a 17-footer to tie it 100-all and then a short fadeaway to give Miami the lead. After Max Strus made one of two free throws, Adebayo scored on a putback dunk to make it 105-100 with less than a minute to play.

Boston used a 21-2 run to turn an eight-point, first-quarter deficit into an 11-point lead.

“It’s tough. It’s a challenge. But there’s no point being up here sad and s—,” Tatum said. “They came here to win two games; they did. You’ve got to give them credit. But we’re not dead or anything. We have a great opportunity. I still have the confidence. We have to get ready for Game 3.”

The Celtics' Jayson Tatum drives on the Heat's Cody Zeller on May 19, 2023.
The Celtics’ Jayson Tatum drives on the Heat’s Cody Zeller. Tatum had 34 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists but went 0 for 3 with two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)


Brown was one for seven in the first quarter, when Tatum scored 12 points. Derrick White, who made a single three-pointer, was the only Celtics player other than Tatum who scored more than two points in the first quarter. … Adebayo and Butler each grabbed five rebounds in the first quarter. … Kyle Lowry and Williams did a little shoving after Williams fouled Adebayo with nine minutes left in the second quarter, with no repercussions.