The Boston Celtics are the latest team unable to find an answer to Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
The Heat, who initially seemed outmatched TD Garden on Wednesday night, rallied in the second half and went on to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Butler put up 35 points and helped lead the Heat to a massive 46-point performance in the third quarter before winning 123-116 in Boston.
After a tight first quarter, the Celtics finally took the lead in the second quarter after a massive 20-5 run midway through the period. That briefly gave Boston a 13-point lead, before having to settle for a 9-point halftime advantage. While the Heat shot approximately 54% from the field as a team in the first half, leading them by 15 points from Butler, they pulled off 9 turnovers for the Celtics’ 19 points.
Jason Tatum also had 18 of his 30 points in the first half, and the Celtics took a 40-16 lead in points scored in the paint. Much of that came from quarterback Robert Williams, who put up 12 points and never missed a shot from the lane in the first 24 minutes.
The Heat completely turned the game around to start the second half, tying things up almost immediately after opening up the third period at 21-12 while shooting 9-of-13 from the field. That left Celtics coach Joe Mazzola furious.
Miami didn’t stop there. The Heat put up 46 points in the third quarter and outgained Boston by 21 in the period to suddenly take a 12-point lead, their most of the game. They’ve gone 6 of 9 from behind the arc as a team and only had one turnover in the span. This quarter was the highest scoring quarterfinal in Heat history.
While Boston narrowed the game to 5 points in the first 94 seconds of the fourth quarter, and held it there for most of the period, it was Caleb Martin who drilled a wide-open 3-pointer late before Butler wildly followed suit. He beat Malcolm Brogdon, who clinched the win by seven points.
Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points and 7 rebounds in the loss, although he only had 4 shot attempts in the second half and none in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown added 22 points and 9 rebounds, and Brogdon finished with 19 points off the bench. The Celtics, who narrowly edged past the Philadelphia 76ers in the semifinal series after a 51-point performance from Tatum on Sunday, shot 10-of-29 from the three-point line as a team on Wednesday night.
Butler added 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 6 steals in a playoff game for the T-T, who reached the Conference Finals after passing the New York Knicks 4-2. Bam Adebayo finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Miami shot better than 54% from the field as a team, and went 16-of-31 from the 3-point line.
The Heat looked very strong for their sixth straight Game 1 win. They now have an early advantage in a series that few expected them to compete in, especially given where they started the postseason in tournament play.
The second game of the series will take place on a Friday night. Although there is still a long way to go in the Conference Finals, the Celtics don’t want to be in a two-game stalemate before they have to travel to Miami on Sunday.
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