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Jimmy Butler again powers Heat to series-opening win, this time 123-116 in Boston

BOSTON – Leads were gained; leads were lost. Bodies were flying and flailing. Competition fierce throughout. And then a decisive Jimmy Butler 3-point attempt.

So, yes, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was very much Miami Heat-Boston Celtics playoff-intensity basketball, a rivalry staged at this level now for the third time in four years.

With the requisite fight to the finish, this time after the Celtics built a 13-point lead, the Heat pushed back to a 12-point advantage, with the Heat ultimately making it a 123-116 victory Wednesday night night at TD Garden.

So make it three series and three series-opening road victories for the Heat, seizing homecourt advantage yet again, as they previously did against the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.

Butler led the Heat with 35 points, including a key late 3-pointer, supported by a balanced attack that included 20 points from Bam Adebayo, 15 apiece from Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin.

The Celtics got 30 points from Jayson Tatum, 22 from Jaylen Brown, 19 from Malcolm Brogdon and 13 points and 11 assists from Marcus Smart.

Game 2 is Friday night back at TD Garden, before shifting to Kaseya Center for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday nights, the winner of this series to meet the winner of Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:

1. Closing time: The Celtics led 30-28 after the first period and 66-57 at halftime, after taking a 13-point second-period lead and making nine of their final 10 shots of the first half. The Heat then moved to a 103-91 lead entering the fourth.

From there, the Celtics opened the fourth on a 7-0 run to trim their deficit to 103-98, leading to a timeout that the Heat utilized to sub Adebayo back into the game for ineffective Cody Zeller.

After the Heat went up nine midway through the fourth, the Celtics trimmed their deficit to 114-110 with 2:31 to play, only to see Martin convert a 3-pointer for a 117-100 Heat lead.

And then, with 1:27 left, Butler, who could have won last season’s seventh game between the teams with a 3-pointer, converted a 3-pointer with 63 seconds left for a 120-112 lead.

2. A wild third: The Heat outscored the Celtics 45-25 in the third period, the 45 points a franchise record for any playoff quarter in the franchise’s 35 seasons.

Strus had 13 points and Butler 13 in the period that the Heat shot .654 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers.

After committing 11 first-half turnovers, the Heat committed just one in the third period, outrebounding Boston 13-5 in the quarter.

3. From the start: Butler scored 12 points in the first quarter, the seventh time he had scored in double figures in an opening period this postseason, most in the NBA. That early effort came while also taking the initial assignment on Tatum.

He was up to 15 points at the intermission and 27 going into the fourth.

4. Adebayo aggressive: Outplayed early by Celtics center Robert Williams, Adabayo took a more aggressive stance from that stage, rebounding in traffic and aggressive offensively in the paint.

The Celtics had a 40-16 edge in paint points at halftime. By the start of the fourth quarter, that advantage was down to 50-34.

It was similar to how the Heat adjusted after being dominated in the first half of their first game in the previous round, before they came back to defeat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

5. Bench boost: Lowry came out sizzling in the second period, opening 5 of 6 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers, as part of his 13-point period.

The problem was no other Heat player had more than three points in the second quarter, and with Lowry playing more as scorer than playmaker, Smart’s 11 assists at halftime were one more than the Heat had over the opening two periods.

The Heat’s best lineups Wednesday night were ones that included Lowry and Caleb Martin.

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