Jimmy Butler goes off as Heat beats Celtics in NBA playoff win


And now, for his next great gig, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler… well, what does Jimmy Butler do next? Making the Boston Celtics disappear on abracadabra? He did that himself on Tuesday.

Butler did it all again, leading the Heat to a 118-107 win against the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Butler had 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks in another magical playoff performance.

His post-season play has brought back memories of “Bubble Jimmy” from two seasons ago. Whether in the bubble or in a normal playoff season, Butler brings another level of mental and physical fire.

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“He fights to win. He does that as well as anyone else in this league,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, later adding: “When you’re driven by competition, the stakes are raised. It’s not about trying to “It’s about doing what it takes. It’s high-level competition. Jimmy feels it. He knows it. He feels it.”

Butler came into the conference finals averaging more points, rebounds, and steals and shooting better from the field and 3-point range in the playoffs than during the regular season. That’s hard to do when each possession is more challenging in a sequence.

Butler has more games (four) with 36 or more points in the playoffs than in the regular season (three). And his 41-point performance on Tuesday is the second-highest-scoring playoff game of his career.

Butler doesn’t care.

“I’m not doing this to score 40 points. I play the way I play to win by any means necessary,” he said. “It just so happened that I scored 40. If I score 40 and lose, I get really pissed off.”

No player in NBA history has had a stat that equaled or surpassed Butler’s points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

“I don’t care if it’s a big stage, a small one or who’s watching,” he said. “I do what I do for my family, for my people, for my organization, for my teammates. That’s it.”

Butler has established himself as one of the best no-nonsense players in the game.

He dominated the game in so many ways. In the Heat’s massive 39-14 third quarter, in which they closed a 62-54 deficit and flipped to a 93-76 lead, Butler scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half. He also had three steals, which led to six runs. Two of those steals were on back-to-back possessions, leaving the Celtics looking apathetic about protecting the basketball.

“Every time we had to control the game, take the right shot or make the right decision, Jimmy had his fingerprints on it,” said Spoelstra. “You see great two-way basketball from him.”

Butler also had an efficient game, taking just 19 shots to reach 41 points. He went to the free throw line 18 times and made 17. Time and again, Celtics players have bitten his fake pump and fouled him.

“I like physicality,” Butler said. “I want to meet people and see who falls first, who stops first. That’s a style of basketball I like to play. And so do they.”

Spoelstra once said that Butler and the Heat organization were meant for each other. It’s not always perfect. Both sides realize that, but there’s enough stability within the franchise and enough understanding of the big picture on Butler’s side to get past minor differences.

They understand the endgame.

“As long as I keep working,” said Butler, “I think I can help us win three more games in this series and hopefully four more after this one.”

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

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