Lake Buena Vista (Florida, US), Aug 31 (efe-epa).- The Miami Heat on Monday served up a surprise victory against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals as did Oklahoma City Thunder in its round one duel with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference.
Jimmy Butler reclaimed his status as franchise star with 40 points — his best tally in the playoffs — to guide the Heat to a 115-104 win against the Bucks in the first semi-final game in the Eastern Conference.
His previous record for the Heat was 38 points but his play-off record was 36 with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.
Goran Dragic was also key for the Heat, bagging 27 points, six assists and five rebounds while Bam Adebayo — who missed out on most improved player this season to New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram — secured a double-double with 12 points and 17 rebounds and six assists.
It was the Heat’s third win in four games with the Bucks, which topped the conference this year with the most points.
The Bucks’ small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo fell just short of a triple double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists while Khris Middleton landed 28 points but their efforts were not enough to avoid victory. The Bucks lost its first game in the series against the Orlando Magic but went on to take four consecutive victories.
The game will serve as a point of reflection and analysis for the Milwaukee team, especially for Antetokounmpo, who missed no fewer than eight free throws (4-12), the worst free throw record in the playoffs since Andre Roberson finished 2-12 for the Thunder back in 2017.
Chris Paul put on a strong performance with 28 points for Oklahoma City Thunder this year to edge his team past the Rockets 104-100 to force a seventh game in the first round of the Western Conference play-offs, a series that is currently tied 3-3.
That game will set the stage for Wednesday and the winner will go on to play the Los Angeles Lakers, which won its series 4-1 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Paul, a former Rockets player, became an unstoppable force in the fourth quarter, sealing 15 points to keep the Thunder in the Orlando bubble.
With 13.1 seconds on the clock he brought the game level at 100-100 with two free throws. Danilo Gallinari then secured the edge with two points after the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook lost the ball.
James Harden bagged 32 points for the Rockets while Robert Covington took 18 and Westbrook topped 17.EFE-EPA