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Jimmy Butler scores 40 to lead Heat over Bucks in series opener

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler reacts during the second half of Game 1 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler reacts during the second half of Game 1 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Jimmy Butler exploded for 40 points to guide the Miami Heat to a 115-104 win over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Monday night.

Butler scored 14 of his playoff career-high 40 points in the final quarter, joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as the only players in Heat history with a 40-point playoff effort.

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"I felt like I took it up a level in the fourth quarter," Butler said. "If that needs to happen every game, I've got to be able to do it. But we've got so many guys capable of doing it for us."

With the victory, the Heat are now 3-1 overall against the Bucks this season. Miami -- fresh off a sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round -- also improved to 5-0 in the playoffs.

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Heat guard Goran Dragic added 27 points, six rebounds and five assists. Bam Adebayo, who finished second behind New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award, had 12 points, 17 rebounds and six assists for the sixth-seeded Heat.

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Sharpshooter Tyler Herro finished with 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting for the Heat. Jae Crowder added nine points and nine boards in 35 minutes.

Khris Middleton dropped 28 points for the Bucks, who also lost in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic. Milwaukee went on to win the next four games in that series to advance.

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Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo notched 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but his struggles from the free throw line marred his well-rounded outing. The reigning NBA MVP went 4 for 12 from the stripe, marking the worst playoff performance by anyone with at least 12 free throw attempts in more than three years.

Oklahoma City Thunder swingman Andre Roberson went 2 for 12 on April 23, 2017, against the Houston Rockets.

"He just has to stick with his routine, stick with what he's been doing, continue to have a lot of confidence, continue to attack, continue to get to the free throw line," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. "He's going to make them. We have total faith in him."

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Brook Lopez had 24 points and two blocks for the Bucks. Reserve guard Kyle Korver added 11 points and three rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Wednesday.

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