NBA playoffs: Jimmy Butler leads dominant defensive effort as Heat take 2-1 lead vs. Knicks

Jimmy Butler is back, and the Miami Heat once again looked themselves on Saturday.

The Heat defeated the New York Knicks 105-86 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, taking a 2-1 lead after dropping Game 2 when Butler was out with an ankle sprain. Game 4 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Monday (TNT) in Miami.

It was a wire-to-wire win for the Heat, who led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter. Miami held New York to 31-of-91 shooting (34.1%) and 8-of-40 (20%) from deep.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 06: Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks defends Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat during game three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Kaseya Center on May 06, 2023 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,  by downloading and or using this photograph,  User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Jimmy Butler looked OK in Game 3. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Butler was cleared to play in Game 3 an hour before tipoff and quickly showed he was healthy, scoring the first points of the game. He scored 10 of his 28 points in the first quarter and finished with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 35 minutes. Max Strus added 9 of his 18 points in the first quarter, giving the Knicks an 8-point lead heading into the second quarter.

The Knicks let their frustration show at the start of the second quarter. Amid a 12-2 run by the Heat, R.J. Barrett got a technical foul after throwing the ball in anger after the Knicks were called for a shooting foul.

That, combined with the Knicks' 0-of-7 start from beyond the arc, helped the Heat break open a 19-point lead with roughly eight minutes to play in the second quarter. The Knicks responded by going on their own 7-2 run. Josh Hart drained the team's first 3-pointer of the night and Immanuel Quickley added another, forcing the Heat to take a timeout midway through the quarter.

The timeout seemed to quell the Knicks' rally. The Heat took a 14-point lead into halftime.

Things got chippy again in the third quarter, in which the Heat kept expanding their lead. In the final seconds, Heat center Cody Zeller pushed Knicks star Julius Randle in the back during a scramble for a rebound. Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein responded by pushing Zeller, and soon a shoving match was afoot.

Zeller, Hartenstein and Caleb Martin were all hit with technical fouls for the incident. Butler was unbothered.

The Knicks never got within 12 points of the Heat in the fourth quarter, and now they will have to bounce back in a major way Monday or face a 3-1 series hole against a veteran squad playing some very good basketball right now.

Making things worse for New York was Sixth Man of the Year finalist Immanuel Quickley exiting the game late with an apparent injury after colliding with Heat big man Bam Adebayo. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the game Quickley had sprained his ankle and the team will know more about his Game 4 availability on Sunday.