Heat edge Celtics; Nuggets oust Clippers

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    JIMMY Butler fought through traffic for the game-winning bucket with 12 seconds remaining in overtime as the Miami Heat edged the Boston Celtics 117-114 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night near Orlando.

    Butler drew a foul on the play and made the free throw to put the Heat up 116-114. Bam Adebayo blocked Jayson Tatum’s attempt to tie the score with 3.7 seconds remaining, and after Adebayo made 1 of 2 at the free throw line, Tatum missed on a 3-point attempt as time expired to seal the result.

    “He made a great play,” Tatum said of Adebayo’s block. “That’s all it is. He made a good play, can’t do anything about it.”

    ATTACK MODE: Heat star Jimmy Butler drives to the basket off Celtics counterpart Jayson Tatum in first half action. REUTERS PHOTO

    Butler added, “That sealed the game for us. . . (Adebayo is) a huge part to why we’re winning— I’ve been saying it all year long, and I’ll repeat it again.”

    Goran Dragic led the Heat with 29 points with seven rebounds, Jae Crowder added 22 and sank five 3-pointers, and Butler scored 20 for the Heat, who won for the ninth time in 10 playoff games. Adebayo had 18 points and nine assists, and Tyler Herro fell an assist shy of a triple-double (12 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists).

    Tatum had a game-high 30 points with 14 rebounds, Marcus Smart scored 26 and Kemba Walker had 19 for the Celtics. Walker put Boston up 114-113 on a step-back bucket with 23.6 seconds left in overtime.

    Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will take place Thursday (Friday in Manila).

    In the other game, Jamal Murray scored 40 points, and the Denver Nuggets completed a stunning comeback in the Western Conference semifinals with a 104-89 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7.

    The third-seeded Nuggets became the first NBA team to rally from 3-1 deficits twice in the same postseason. They defeated the Utah Jazz in the first round. Denver will meet the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in Western Conference finals, beginning Friday (Saturday in Manila).

    Murray, who also had five assists, connected on 15 of 26 shots, including 6 of 13 from 3-point range. Nikola Jokic had 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists for Denver, and Jerami Grant and Gary Harris contributed 14 points apiece.

    Montrezl Harrell had 20 points for the second-seeded Clippers, who have never advanced to the Western Conference finals in franchise history. The franchise is 0-8 when it had a chance, dating back to its days as the Buffalo Braves.

    Kawhi Leonard managed just 14 points, Patrick Beverley scored 11 and Paul George finished with 10. Leonard shot 6 of 22 while George was 4 of 16 from the floor.

    A 3-pointer by Murray gave Denver an 89-74 lead with 8:48 remaining to cap a 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter. The Clippers went more than seven minutes without a field goal in the final period. The Nuggets took advantage, boosting the lead to 100-80 on a dunk by Jerami Grant with 2:10 left.