Thursday, May 18, 2023

Heat 123, Celtics 116: Jimmy Butler goes off for 35 in Game 1 rally [MIA leads series, 1-0]

The Celtics dropped their Eastern Conference Finals opener 123-116 to the Miami Heat Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Jimmy Butler finished with a game-high 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting, five rebounds and seven assists. Bam Adebayo added 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Heat -- who have won their third straight Game 1 on the road during this postseason.
"I'm playing at an incredible level because they are allowing me to do so," Butler said in his postgame presser about his teammates. "They are not putting a limit on my game. They are trusting me with the ball, on the defensive end. I think that’s what any basketball player wants."
Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Kyle Lowry each chipped in 15 points respectively, while all four hit three 3-pointers apiece to help Miami steal homecourt advantage.

Jayson Tatum had a team-high 30 points on 9-of-17 from the field, while Jaylen Brown scored 22 points on 10-of-21 from the floor. Malcolm Brogdon netted 19 points off the bench and Robert Williams was a perfect 6-of-6 to record 14 points to go along with seven rebounds for the Celtics -- who are only 4-4 at home so far in the playoffs.
"I don't know why," Tatum said in his postgame comments of their struggles at home. "You've still got to play the game, you've got to make plays, regardless of whether you're home or away."
Marcus Smart registered 14 points, 11 assists (10 in the first half) and only two turnovers, with the rest of the team turned the ball over 13 times.

Boston used a 21-8 run in the second quarter to go ahead by double-digits and take a 66-57 advantage into the break.

The Heat scored 46 points in the third, including a 19-9 run to open the period and grab their first lead since the first quarter, as they went into the final frame up 103-91.

A quick 7-0 spurt by the Celtics to start the fourth, got them within five (103-98) and once again with 4:50 left -- trailed 114-109 with 4:50 left to play, before they turned the ball over twice and Brogdon hit one of two free throws to cut it to four, which was the closest they'd get down the stretch.

Martin and Butler responded by connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers, while Tatum was called for traveling on two ensuing possessions for the C's. Butler nailed a dagger 27-footer to beat the shot clock and put the Heat comfortably in front by 10 and with 1:03 to play. 

In the end Boston turned the ball over four times (including three straight by Tatum) in the final 3:39 and was outscored 66-50 in the second half overall. They never recovered from their meltdown in the third quarter.
"We lost one quarter because we dropped that sense of urgency," said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. "You can't just think what you did in the past is good enough."
The Celtics and Heat face off again in Game 2 Friday night at the Garden, with tip-off at 8:30 ET on TNT

Game Notes:

Boston was 51.9% from the field, including 10-of-29 from behind the arc, while the Heat were 54.1% from the floor and 16-of-31 from long distance. Miami out-rebounded the Celtics 35-34, but were outscored in the paint 62-40. The C's dished out 22 assists on 42 baskets and the Heat had 20 dimes (15 turnovers) on 46 made shots.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Boston Globe

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