Jimmy Butler conjured another magical performance as the Miami Heat sent the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks sensationally crashing out of the NBA playoffs on Wednesday with a nerve-jangling overtime victory.
Butler, who scored 56 points in a dazzling game four win on Monday, once again led Miami’s offense with 42 points as the eighth-seeded Heat won 128-126 to seal a 4-1 series triumph.
It is only the sixth time in NBA history that an eighth-seeded team has eliminated a No. 1 seed from the playoffs.
The Bucks — who finished the regular season on top of the Eastern Conference with the best record in the NBA — were left ruing another fourth-quarter collapse as Miami celebrated before a shocked Milwaukee home crowd at the Fiserv Forum.
Milwaukee, who had blown a double-digit lead in Monday’s game four loss in Miami, were ahead by 16 points early in the fourth quarter on Wednesday.
But with a victory beckoning that would have kept the series alive, the Bucks’ fragility was exposed once more as Miami chipped away at the lead.
The Heat outscored Milwaukee 32-16 in the fourth quarter, with Butler grabbing a jaw-dropping alley-oop to tie the game at 118-118 with just 0.5 seconds left that forced overtime.
“We were resilient, we were down late — it’s seemed to be that way a lot during this series — but we stayed with it, got some stops, made some huge buckets,”Said Butler.
The Miami star said his remarkable streak of form had been inspired by his teammates.
“Whatever it takes to win — it could be 40 (points), it could be 50, I gotta be able to do it all,”Butler said.
Miami teammate Gabe Vincent, whose sublime pass set up Butler’s game-tying shot at the end of regulation, said the Miami plan had been simple:
“Just get the ball to Jimmy…get the ball to Buckets and let him do what he do.”
Milwaukee’s disintegration in the closing stages was underscored by a desperate attempt to level at the end of overtime when Grayson Allen failed to get a shot off as the buzzer sounded.
Milwaukee’s off night was also reflected in their dismal free-throw shooting, where they shot just 28-of-45 from the foul line. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo made only 10-of-23 free throws.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer refused to point the finger, however.
“There’s a ton of disappointment when your season ends, no matter how it happens,”
“It’s a hard feeling, it’s a disappointing feeling. But I believe and trust those guys. We’ve all got to be better.”Budenholzer said.
Knicks advance, Grizzlies win
Miami will now face the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
The Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-95 to complete a 4-1 series victory earlier Wednesday.
Jalen Brunson scored 23 points and RJ Barrett 21 as the Knicks produced a clinical wire-to-wire victory on the road to book their place in the next round.
The win was New York’s first playoff series victory since 2013.
Needing a win to stay alive on their home court, Cleveland were left chasing the game after the Knicks surged into a 33-26 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Cavs were never able to overcome that deficit as New York closed out a composed win.
In the Western Conference, meanwhile, Ja Morant led a superb second-half rally as the Memphis Grizzlies kept their playoff campaign alive with a 116-99 victory over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Morant led a devastating 19-2 run to close the third quarter that effectively sealed victory for the Grizzlies, who led 94-76 heading into the fourth.
Morant finished with 31 points and 10 assists on 13-of-26 shooting while Desmond Bane led the Memphis scoring with 33 points as Memphis cut the Lakers’ series lead to 3-2.
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 31 points, but James had a night to forget, shooting just 5-of-17 for 15 points.
“It’s not about what AD and myself are doing, it’s about how we can win basketball games,”
“And tonight I was shit — I’ll be better in game six.”James said afterward.
In Wednesday’s other Western Conference game, the Golden State Warriors battled to a 123-116 win over the Sacramento Kings that leaves the NBA champions just one win away from clinching their series.
The Warriors can book their place in the next round with a victory in game six on their home court in San Francisco on Friday.
Stephen Curry scored 31 points while Klay Thompson added 25, including five three-pointers. Andrew Wiggins added 25 points.