ESPN.com8 minutes to read
Just like they did last year, Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat entered the TD Garden, overcame a 13-point deficit and defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to take advantage of a home stadium.
Celtics rebounded from that losing to win Game 2 and eventually playing their way to the NBA Finals by winning the series in seven games. The Celtics face a similar task this Eastern Finals after outscoring the Heat 46-25 in the third quarter en route to a 123-116 win.
However, Boston has the confidence of knowing they were in the same place last year and prevailed.
The Celtics can capitalize on a Game 2 win to kick off their own momentum in the series and try to get back to the Finals under first-year head coach Joe Mazzola, while the Heat have the opportunity to pick up what they fell short in Game 2 last year. And sending the series back to Miami by a 2-0 margin.
Here’s a breakdown of the chain’s biggest takeaways to date, and what they might mean for Boston and Miami in the future:
Boston couldn’t afford another disastrous quarter
Much of the focus will be on the third quarter of Game 1, when Miami edged Boston 46-25 to turn the game around and seal the Heat’s third consecutive series-opening victory in this playoff.
But the story of this game is much deeper. Most important stats: Marcus Smart had 10 assists in the first half and one in the second.
The Celtics are at their best when they move the ball, and specifically when it’s Smart running it. While he is not known for his crime – he He was 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year – Smart has always been an underrated facilitator. For a team that can be tempted to watch the ball stick on offense, this movement of the ball is crucial.
When the game slid away from Boston in the second half, that’s exactly what happened: The offense turned into standoffs, Boston began to turn the ball over, and Miami scrambled the other way for easy buckets.
“We were really upset,” said Smart after the first game.
“Second half, we were all in on each other.”
Boston went from 15 assists against five turnovers in the first half to seven assists and 10 turnovers in the second. It’s a reminder that the Celtics will have to improve their ball movement if they want to even the Series.
– Tim Bontemps
Boston goes as Tatum goes
NBA superstar Jason Tatum has proven time and time again that he can take over the game. Look no further than Sunday’s Game 7 Eastern Conference semifinal against the Philadelphia 76ers, where 51 points — the most ever in a Game 7 — propelled the Celtics into the Conference Finals.
Late in Wednesday’s Game 1 loss to the Heat, this version of Tatum was missing — he didn’t even attempt a shot in the fourth quarter.
According to Spectrum II tracking, Game 1 featured Tatum’s second-fewest number of touchdowns (13) and dribbles (34) in the fourth quarter of the season.
Which raises the question: How exactly can the Celtics open the floor to help Tatum?
“You have to fight for the advantages,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzola said. “You have to fight to create a breakaway. And so, it’s important to be able to adjust how we play against one defence, versus switching defences.”
Boston’s clustered spacing against Miami’s shifting defensive schemes led to a slower pace in the second half that, at times, limited Tatum, as he was called to travel twice in the fourth quarter.
“I just have to slow down a little bit in those moments,” said Tatum.
Much of Tatum’s difficulty scoring in the fourth quarter had to do with the Heat’s all-star butler, who guarded Tatum more than any other player in the game. When Butler defended him throughout the first game, Tatum only shot 38% from the field. Tatum was a 60% shooter when the Heat players checked him.
– Cole Harvey
Butler led Miami through the playoffs
After Game 1, Heat guard Gabe Vincent was asked to describe the feeling inside the Heat’s locker room after an impressive win.
“Not satisfied,” said Vincent.
Since Miami crept into the postseason, played with a briskness befitting a first-team in the East, not a No. 8 seed in the midst of a historic tear, three games away from another Finals appearance. When asked to describe the group’s confidence heading into Game 2 on Friday, Kyle Lowry was quick to respond.
“You’re listening to Jimmy, right?” Lowry said.
Lowry’s answer speaks exactly how the players and coaches feel within the Heat organization. That is why coach Erik Spoelstra said after game one that Butler’s influence on the rest of the group could not be quantified.
The difference between the Heat now and the Heat right before the playoffs start with Butler being able to put the team on his back.
Spoelstra again sang Butler’s praises after the first game, especially his performance late in the win.
“As one of the excellent, if not first-team, basketball players in this league, that’s what we need,” Spoelstra said. “We needed him to make some plays defensively. We also needed him to just be defensive containment of the ball… And then, Jimmy was able to do whatever we needed him to do as scorer or coordinator. He’s willing to do both.”
It’s a feeling that can’t be measured just by looking at Butler’s Elite 1 game box score numbers of 35 points, 7 assists, 6 steals and 5 rebounds, and it remains the most defining characteristic of this particular heat race.
Trust within the group is strong, and Butler is working to cement it a little more every day.
– Nick Friedel
History on the Boston side in Game 2
There is a great postseason trend that has continued in these playoffs: Teams that lost Game 1 at home won Game 2, often in blowout fashion. It was the last team to lose both home games to start a series The Los Angeles Clippers are in their 2021 first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, which they came back to win in seven games.
Since then, the Losers of Game 1 have been at home 16-0 in Game 2 with an average margin of victory of 17.2 points. We had plenty of opportunities to put that trend to the test this year: The home team’s eight first-game losses were the most of any playoff games in NBA history.
Incredibly, three of those road wins came from Miami, which won Game 1 of all three series without the home court advantage. So far, the Heat haven’t been able to go 2-0 in either series, losing by 16 points at the Milwaukee Bucks under a 3-point barrage and by six points at the New York Knicks without Butler, who missed the game. due to a sprained ankle.
Game Two losses didn’t stop Miami from finishing every series, and overall, the winners of Game One have gone on to win five out of seven cases this year. However, in the long run, the road split isn’t actually a great place for the lower seed to be. The team with the home court advantage still wins a narrow majority of that series (51% of seven-game series since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984).
As a result, the Heat doesn’t feel comfortable after a single win in Boston.
– Kevin Belton
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