The Miami Heat stormed the TD Garden in Boston again this Friday and came back from twelve points behind led by Jimmy Butler to beat the Celtics 111-105 and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals of the NBA, which leaves them two wins away from reaching the Finals as the eighth seed.
The Heat are no longer a surprise. They reached the ‘playoffs’ through the ‘play-in’, but as the pressure increases, their level skyrockets. Starting from their absolute leader, a Butler who signed 27 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals and who responded on the field to the provocations of Grant Williams, who faced him in the fourth period when the Celtics won by nine points.
The series now moves to Miami for the next two episodes. The Heat have never lost at home this postseason, in which they eliminated the Chicago Bulls in the play-in, the Milwaukee Bucks, the best team in the East, and the New York Knicks.
Butler is the leader of some Heat that play as a team, in which Bam Adebayo touched the triple double with 22 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists and an extraordinary Gabe Vincent coming off the bench with 25 points. Erik Spoelstra’s team, which cannot count on a valuable piece like Tyler Herro, once again revealed the limits of the Celtics, unable to manage their advantages in these ‘playoffs’.
After wasting thirteen points of advantage in the first period, they did not know how to defend their twelve margin this Friday and fell to another bittersweet night by Jayson Tatum, who finished with 34 points, thirteen points and eight rebounds, but who only scored from the line free in the fourth period. His team failed to support him enough, with Jaylen Brown second best with 16 points.
The numbers speak clearly. A franchise that took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series advanced 312 times out of 339 in NBA history.
usual ups and downs
With confidence soaring after Wednesday’s victory, the Heat had a brilliant start to the game and, fueled by Butler and Adebayo’s power in the paint, they took an 8-point lead at 22-14. They moved the ball with quality and stood out for their defensive effectiveness to contain the Celtics. At that moment of trouble, Tatum’s character reaction was important, who took the reins of the game and signed 12 of his team’s 25 points to lead, with two three-pointers, an 11-2 run that gave advantage to the Celtics after the first quarter (25-24).
It was the spark that got TD Garden into the game and it turned into a fire early in the second period. In 74 seconds, two triples by Derrick White and Brogdon and a layup by Tatum extended the tremendous run to 19-2 and forced Spoelstra to call a timeout (33-24). The quarter made it 24-4 for the Celtics, who were twelve points up (40-28) and confirmed the offensive power of Mazzulla’s men. However, the fragility of the team when it came to managing the moments of the duels was also confirmed and Miami responded with a 19-2 lead, led by an excellent Caleb Martin (8 points) who gave the visitors a three-point lead. Butler put together some great defensive plays (one shot and two steals) and closed the period with a marvelous jump shot that sent the Heat to the locker room ahead 54-50.
Tatum takes the reins
Tatum barely scored 2 points in the second quarter, but he left the locker room determined to leave his mark on the game and did so with a third period of 15 points, 10 of them consecutive to give the Celtics a 67-62 lead. A great Martin sustained the Heat, but a new 10-0 run by Boston, culminating in a triple by Smart, and two free throws by Brogdon allowed Mazzulla’s men to take control of the clash with an 83-75 margin going into the fourth period. Tatum showed off his repertoire, with triples with a step back, tackles and also his valuable contribution in the paint with 6 rebounds to seal and his double-double (29 points and 13 rebounds in three quarters).
A great start by Robert Williams increased the Celtics’ lead to twelve points (89-77), but two consecutive 3-pointers by Duncan Robinson kept the Heat alive (91-87), even with Butler regaining energy on the bench.
Butler finishes off the Celtics
He followed that script, with the Celtics retaking a nine-point margin (96-87) and the Heat responding with a 9-2 (98-96), after sparks flew between Grant Williams and Butler. The leader of those from Miami took its toll on the Celtics and the Heat sealed an 18-4 run after that friction that gave them a five-point lead at 105-100. Tatum, who hadn’t shot in the fourth period of Game 1, went scoreless from the field again. He only did it from the free throw line and at the last minute, when the Heat defended their margin to seal a magnificent new comeback.
The Heat are two wins away from flying to what would be their second NBA Finals in three years, after the one they lost in 2020 against the Los Angeles Lakers.