No time to hang out for the Celtics, on deck Sunday night for their Game 7 against the Bucks and who were already fighting against the Heat two days later.
Outside, with a great Jayson Tatum (21 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists before the break), things went very well at first for Boston, who delivered an excellent first period, in order to settle comfortably and logically in control (62-54). Except that the return from the locker room was bloody for the men of Ime Udoka, eaten in all compartments of the game by Miami, during the third quarter (39-14).
And it was the inevitable Jimmy Butler (17 points in the quarter and 27 in the second half) who played the executioners of the C’s. In a state of grace, the All-Star winger offered an XXL performance on each side of the field, to finally end this Game 1 with an incredible line of stats: 41 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks! !! All at 12/19 in shots and 17/18 in free throws, in 41 minutes…
Enough for the Florida franchise, still undefeated at home in these playoffs, to take control of this series and calmly approach Game 2, scheduled for Thursday evening.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
— A one-sided third quarter. What an incredible turnaround. In the lead 62-54 at the break, the Celtics collapsed on returning from the locker room, conceding… 39-14 in twelve minutes! Returning with better intentions, the Heat walked on their visitors on both sides of the floor, inflicting a 22-2 “run” on them and limiting them to 0 baskets for… seven minutes! Carried by Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent and Bam Adebayo, Miami completely reversed the trend, accumulating counters, interceptions and baskets, from far or near. Without envy, Boston lost its footing and never managed to get back behind.
— Jimmy Butler is on a mission. “Bubble” or not “bubble”, the All-Star winger is part of the category of very large, able to sublimate in big meetings. You only have to watch his performance tonight to be convinced. Omnipresent, in scoring, in defense, in creation or in rebounding, he martyred any of his vis-à-vis, on each side of the field. The kind of performance that makes an impression, and from which we will especially remember his very big third quarter (17 points), which allowed Miami to overthrow Game 1. In full confidence, “Jimmy Buckets” is a real pleasure for the eyes.
— A two-faced Jayson Tatum. Statistically, the All-Star winger clearly did the job (29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals). The problem is that he compiled three-quarters of his stats before the break and disappeared when he returned from the locker room. In the image, finally, of almost all his team. Radiant in the first half, alternating wonderfully between scoring and distribution, while aggressively towards the circle, he then died out. Without energy and unable to calm the game, he accumulated stupid and avoidable ball losses (7 in total!), reviving Miami, which was thus able to deploy its game in transition.
— The absences. Kyle Lowry on one side, but also (and above all) Marcus Smart and Al Horford on the other. Neither team was complete in Game 1, between Lowry’s hamstring problems in Miami, and foot or Covid-19 problems for Smart and Horford in Boston. That didn’t stop Heat and Celtics from putting on a show for the FTX Arena audience, but it would be nice to see the two best teams in the Eastern Conference challenge each other in this conference final. Which shouldn’t be the case during Game 2 either…
✅ Gabe Vincent. If Miami has still not lost a single game without Kyle Lowry in this playoff campaign, it is in particular because Vincent is perfectly acting on the back lines of Florida. A veritable ball of energy, ready to throw himself on all the balls and give his body to science, for the good of his team, he is also capable of doing a lot of damage in attack, with his quality of shooting. Witness his 17 points planted last night (5/10 on shots, including 3/7 from afar), which mainly came after the break, to knock out the Celtics when they were in the hard and on the ropes.
✅ Robert Williams. Back in the five, the “Time Lord” did not miss his reunion with the competition. Author of a very good first half, in the absence of Al Horford, he compiled 18 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in 28 minutes (6/8 on shots and 6/7 on free throws) . His size and physical power initially pained Bam Adebayo and the Heat, unable to slow him down or stop Jayson Tatum et al from serving him under the circle. In the wake of their pivot, the Celtics also massacred the Heat in the paint, before the break (42 points!). Until this failed and ultimately fatal return from the locker room…
✅ Tyler Herro. In the hard so far, the Sixth man of the year 2022 could well have launched his playoffs with this Game 1. Coming off the bench, he is the one who allowed the Heat not to be too far behind on the scoreboard. display, in the first half. Aggressive and inspired in scoring, especially when it was necessary to push the ball on the counterattack or respond to the arabesques of Jayson Tatum, Herro (18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) thus delivered one of his best games of the spring. It is up to him to repeat such a performance on Thursday evening, during Game 2.
✅ Payton Pritchard. In this role of second back who must be ready to draw as soon as he receives the ball and he has a little space in front of him, Pritchard excels. In any case much more than Dennis Schröder, long called to occupy this function before his departure from Massachusetts. And Brad Stevens was right to make room for his pocket “combo-guard”, author of 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in this Game 1. Without Marcus Smart, he spent 30 minutes on the floor and, despite his size which exposes him in defense, he made a strong impression in attack, where he plays with confidence, thanks in particular to his quality of shooting.
⛔ Jaylen Brown. His few successful 3-point baskets in the last act, when the gap was already large, should not hide the fact that the All-Star rear did not hold his rank this night. Because, even if he finished with 24 points (and 10 rebounds) on the clock, he was holed up for three quarters. Between poor choices with the ball, forced shots and a lack of aggression, he didn’t behave like the Jayson Tatum lieutenant he’s supposed to be. In the hard, we expect more regularity from him and above all a face similar to that displayed in the last twelve minutes of the meeting.
⛔ Miami and its paint protection. Before everything unblocked after the break, the Heat suffered for a long time. Obviously something that Erik Spoelstra will not fail to remind his players, because their first period was not at the level of a contender for the Finals. Especially in terms of their home defense, because Boston has long had fun in the Florida racket. Bam Adebayo regularly sent off by his vis-à-vis, Miami took on water near the circle, to the point of conceding 42 units in this area of the field. Alert without gravity, but alert all the same.
Game 2still in Miami, on the night of Thursday to Friday (02:30).