Jimmy Butler scored 42 points and the Miami Heat yet again pulled off another shocking fourth quarter comeback before ultimately winning 128-126 in overtime, on Wednesday night in game five of a best-of-seven series, to eliminate the first-seed Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Miami had to win an elimination play-in tournament game over the Chicago Bulls to even get to this point. The Heat are now the first play-in team to win a series in the playoffs, they are also the first eighth-seed to defeat a first-seed team in five games or less, in addition to joining as the sixth overall eighth-seed in NBA history to eliminate a first-seed.
“We’re a resilient group, we stick together through everything,” Jimmy Butler said.
The last time an eighth-seed defeated a first-seed team in the first round was over a decade ago, a Philadelphia 76ers team in 2012 that featured current Bucks guard Jrue Holiday would upset the top-seed Chicago Bulls after Derrick Rose suffered a knee injury.
The Heat advance to a second-round series with the fifth-seed New York Knicks. Their first matchup is set for Sunday in New York and there’s plenty of history and bad blood between the two teams in the playoffs during their scuffles in the late 1990’s.
The Heat came back from a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit and tied the game 118 apiece against the Bucks in the final two seconds, after Jimmy Butler’s inbound catch and layup via Gabe Vincent, leaving only half of a second in the fourth and subsequently forcing overtime.
“We’ve practiced variations of that play with a bunch of different guys. I was going to do a different version of it. He [Jimmy Butler] just said, ‘No, let me be that guy.’ I just said, ‘OK, but what if we can’t get that pass.’ He [Jimmy Butler] said, ‘I’ll get it. Don’t worry about it.’ ” – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Butler averaged a phenomenal 37.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 60-percent from the floor and 44-percent beyond the arc. That also included a 56-point outing in game four which tied fourth all-time in single-game scoring performances in NBA playoffs history and it set a Heat franchise record for the postseason.
“He’s desperate and urgent and maniacal and sometimes psychotic about the will to try to win. He’ll make everybody in the building feel it. That’s why he is us and we are him. That’s the way we operate as well,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
It was also Spoelstra’s 100th career playoff coaching victory, as he tied for fifth all-time on the list with Larry Brown.
Bam Adebayo recorded a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while Gabe Vincent added 22 points for the Heat.
“Everybody who got on that bus believed, I felt everybody believed. And we did something a lot of people thought we couldn’t do,” Bam Adebayo said.
Milwaukee led 102-86 over Miami after three quarters but shot just 5-of-25 from the floor in the fourth quarter and overtime. This marked the biggest deficit a winning team ever had faced to start the fourth quarter of a series-clinching victory in NBA history.
The Heat tied the game twice late in the fourth quarter before Khris Middleton made two free throws to put Milwaukee back ahead with 27 seconds left.
Jrue Holiday made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to make it a four-point game in favor of the Bucks’. Gabe Vincent would respond with a three-pointer to cut the Bucks lead to one with 8.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
After getting fouled with 2.1 seconds left, Jrue Holiday missed on one of his two free throws to make it 118-116. Then Gabe Vincent’s outstanding pass to Butler to tie the game and help force overtime would eventually send the Heat to the second round as they coasted to a win in the extra period.
The Bucks would trail 128-126 to Miami and had the ball in the closing seconds of overtime, but Grayson Allen would not stay mindful of the shot clock as he drove to the basket ultimately giving the Miami Heat the victory. The Bucks had timeouts available but didn’t use them in the closing seconds which raised questions for coach Mike Budenholzer who would defend his decision not to use them, during the postgame press conference.
MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 20 rebounds for the Bucks, while Khris Middleton added 33 points of his own.
Antetokounmpo was asked after the game by a reporter if a first-round elimination made this season a failure and he was visibly upset with the question and responded.
“There’s no failure in sports, there’s good days, bad days. Some days you’re able to be successful. Some days you’re not. Some days it’s your turn. Some days it’s not your turn. That’s what sports is about. You don’t always win,” Antetokounmpo said.
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