Jimmy Butler is back, and the Miami Heat once again looked themselves on Saturday.
The Heat defeated the New York Knicks 105-86 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinals, taking a 2-1 lead after dropping Game 2 when Butler was out with an ankle sprain. Game 4 is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 in Miami (TNT).
It was a wire-to-wire win for the Heat, who never trailed and led by as much as 22 in the fourth quarter. The team held the Knicks to 31-of-91 shooting (34.1%) shooting and 8-of-40 (20%) from deep.
Butler wasted no time proving he was good to go after missing Game 2 due to a right ankle injury. Butler was cleared to play in Game 3 an hour before tipoff, 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 Strus 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 at the beginning of the second quarter. Amid a 12-2 run 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.
That, combined with the Knicks’ 0-of-7 start from beyond the arc, helped the Heat break open a 19-point lead with roughly 8 minutes to play in the second quarter. The Knicks responded by going on their own 7-2 run. Josh Hart drained the team’s first three of the night and Immanuel Quickley added another, forcing the Heat to take a timeout halfway through the quarter.
The timeout seemed to quell the Knicks’ rally. The Heat took a 14-point lead into halftime.
Things got chippy again in the third quarter, in which the Heat kept expanding their lead. In the final seconds, Heat big man Cody Zeller pushed Knicks star Julius Randle in the back during a scramble for a rebound. Knicks big man Isaiah Harteinstein responded by pushing Zeller, and soon a shoving match was underway.
Zeller, Hartenstein and Caleb Martin were all hit with technical fouls for the incident. Butler was unbothered.
The Knicks never got within 12 points of the Heat in the fourth quarter, and now they will have to bounce back in a major way on Monday or face a 3-1 series hole against a veteran squad playing some very good basketball right now.