MIAMI — Jimmy Butler had the game of his life, and the Miami Heat had a comeback for the ages.
Butler scored 56 points – tying the fourth-best scoring performance ever in an NBA playoff game – and the Heat roared back from 14 points down in the final quarter to stun the Milwaukee Bucks 119-114 on Monday night to put the NBA’s top overall seed on the brink of early elimination.
The 56 points also became Butler’s career high. He was 19 for 28 from the field, 15 of 18 from the foul line and added nine rebounds for eighth-seeded Miami – which took a 3-1 lead over the Bucks in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Still trying to wrap our heads around what Jimmy did. The man was not going to be denied tonight. Absolute grit. pic.twitter.com/3ggO9Mwkgc
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 25, 2023
“For my team, to get this dub, in this way, in this atmosphere, for this city, it’s huge,” Butler said.
Brook Lopez scored 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a two-game absence with a bruised back and had a triple-double – 26 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.
And the Bucks – who now need to win three straight, starting with Game 5 at Milwaukee on Wednesday – led almost the whole way, until the Heat roared back in the final minutes.
“We didn’t make enough plays on either end,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “And they did.”
Butler had 21 of his points in the fourth, and the Heat still trailed 101-89 after a layup by Lopez with 6:09 left.
That’s when a 13-0 run, capped by a Butler dunk off a Bucks turnover, put Miami up for the first time all night with 3:17 left – 102-101.
The lead changed hands four more times, and Butler’s 3-pointer with 1:20 left put Miami ahead for good. He added a step-back jumper on Miami’s next possession, punched the air in celebration, and the Heat knew they would soon be leaving with a 3-1 lead.
“For 40 minutes of this game, it was frustrating. … It just shows you that when you have the right grit and perseverance, you can win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And then it always helps to have a guy like him.”
The only players to score more in a playoff game: Michael Jordan had 63 in 1986, Elgin Baylor had 61 in 1962, Donovan Mitchell had 57 in 2020. Butler became the fourth with 56, joining Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Charles Barkley.
Bam Adebayo scored 15, Caleb Martin had 12 and Gabe Vincent scored 10 for the Heat.
Antetokounmpo missed Games 2 and 3 of the series – and most of Game 1 – with a bruised lower back. He worked out Sunday, went through shootaround with the Bucks on Monday, got cleared to play and looked good as new.
But Butler was better than ever.
He set the tone early – with the highest-scoring quarter of his career. He had 22 of Miami’s 28 first-quarter points, including 20 in a row over a span of 5:45 late in the period.
And in the fourth, he had 21 more – leading a massive comeback, one that put a team that won an NBA-best 58 games this season squarely on the ropes in Round 1.
“The series is still going,” Spoelstra said. “And we have great respect for the championship DNA that group has.”