Boston, meet Playoff Jimmy.
The Heat defeated the Celtics 123-116, going up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. After a 3rd quarter where they put up 46 points, Miami, led by Butler, hit big shot after big shot to keep the Celtics down.
This game felt upside down for both teams. The Miami Heat were the ones dominating from three, shooting 16-31 as a team, while Boston made their living cutting through the zone and getting to the basket, scoring 62 points in the paint. The difference was on defense, where Boston couldn’t stop anything from falling, especially in the 3rd, and Miami forced clutch turnovers late to quell the comeback.
Something looked so disconnected tonight on both ends. Everyone clearly wasn't on the same page. I'm interested to hear how all the players thought the game plan played out. Mazzulla was furious all 2nd half
— Bobby Manning (@RealBobManning) May 18, 2023
“We won three out of the four quarters,” said Joe Mazzulla following the game. “We lost one quarter because we dropped that sense of urgency. You can’t just think what you did in the past is good enough.”
The Heat truly got a full team effort in their win, but Jimmy Butler still stole the show. He did everything for the Heat tonight, scoring 35 points and adding 5 assists, 7 rebounds, and 6 steals. When Jimmy wasn’t the one doing the heavy lifting, it was Bam Adebayo, who feasted in single coverage all game long. He posted 20 points on over 69% shooting.
For Boston, this game felt reminiscent of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They barely attempted any threes compared to their usual marks (just 29 tonight), got most of their looks at the rim, and couldn’t get a stop when they needed it. Once the Heat capped off a 13-3 run to tie the game midway through the third, their first half momentum completely vanished, and an uninspired end to the quarter created a hole too big to climb out of.
In that 3rd quarter, the Celtics curiously did not call time out once. When asked about it after the game, Joe Mazzulla said he would’ve used one had he not taken two in the 1st quarter. “If I didn’t use two in the first I would have used one for the third-quarter run,” he said.
Tatum had a good night scoring, ending with 30 points, but he coughed the ball up four times, three of them coming within the last four minutes. The two biggest difference makers on offense in the first half, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III, had much quieter second halves as well.
There are some things the Celtics can take away as positive from tonight, but overall, they got caught sleeping by a Heat team that’s done nothing but battle since the Play-In Tournament. With the Heat’s postseason track record, they can’t afford any more of these games or else things may start to go South fast.
The Heat and Celtics will rematch in Game 2 on Friday night.
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 18, 2023