Jimmy Butler is back, and the Miami Heat looked at themselves again on Saturday.
The Heat defeated the New York Knicks 105-86 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series, taking a 2-1 lead after losing Game 2 when Butler had a sprained ankle. Game 4 is scheduled Monday at 7:30 PM ET in Miami (TNT).
It was a winning streak for Tee, who never trailed and led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter. Miami held New York to 31-of-91 (34.1%) and 8-of-40 (20%) from depth.
Butler was cleared in Game 3 an hour before the tip-off, and quickly showed he was healthy, scoring the first points of the game. He scored 10 of his 28 points in the first quarter and finished with four rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 35 minutes. Max Stross added 9 of his 18 points in the first quarter, giving the Knicks an 8-point lead heading into the second quarter.
The Knicks let their frustration show early in the second quarter. Amidst a 12-2 rally by the Heat, RJ Barrett was charged with a technical foul after throwing the ball in anger after the Knicks were called for a shooting foul.
This, combined with the Knicks’ 0-of-7 start from outside the arc, helped the Heat open a 19-point lead with nearly 8 minutes to play in the second quarter. The Knicks responded by going 7-2. Josh Hart drained the team’s first 3-pointer of the night and Emmanuel Kwikley added another, forcing the Heat to take a timeout midway through the quarter.
The timeout seemed to dampen the Knicks’ career. The Heat led by 14 points going into halftime.
Things got worse again in the third quarter, as the Heat continued to extend their lead. In the closing seconds, Heat big man Cody Zeller shoved Knicks star Julius Randle in the back during a scramble for a rebound. Knicks big man Isaiah Hartsteinstein responded by shoving Zeller, and soon the shoving match was in full swing.
Zeller, Hartenstein and Caleb Martin all suffered technical fouls in the incident. Butler was unfazed.
The Knicks never got within 12 points of the Heat in the fourth quarter, and now they’ll have to come back in a big way on Monday or face a 3-1 hole in the series against a veteran team that’s playing pretty good basketball right now.
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