The Boston Celtics started fast to open Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Miami Heat. They opened the game with a 12-3 run as the Heat ran a zone defense for the first time in the playoffs.
Boston relentlessly attacked their opponents, and took advantage of the fact that Miami couldn’t buy a bucket in the first quarter. They finished ahead 26-18, forcing Miami into their lowest scoring quarter of the playoffs so far on 6 of 22 shooting. Marcus Smart was a key player in that first quarter, leading the game with 10 points, including a couple of long balls.
The lead was pushed to 32-20 early in the second quarter as the Heat continued to use a half court zone defense. Miami are no strangers to adversity, though, and they roared back to take a 39-38 lead with 5:59 left in the quarter.
The first half ended up tied 55-55. As he’s done throughout most of the playoffs, Goran Dragic led Miami’s first half offense with 16 points. Jayson Tatum had 15 at the half to pace the Celtics.
The third quarter saw the teams trade leads multiple times, but Marcus Smart mirrored his first quarter by scoring 10 again in the third. It was close until the last couple of minutes of the third quarter, where Boston went on 13-2 run to take an 83-71 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Miami beat their record for lowest points scored in a quarter (18 set in the first quarter of Game 1) with 16 points in the third quarter.
Jimmy Butler, as he’s done throughout the playoffs, started on the bench in the final stanza. The Heat did again find a way to fight back, and with 3:33 left in the game, Erik Spoesltra called a timeout with the score 101-95 in the Celtics’ favor. A quick three cut that lead to 101-98. Both teams then traded baskets to make it 103-100.
Kemba Walker hit a big layup, but then Tyler Herro made another quick three to cut the Celtics lead to 105-103. That gave the ball to the Heat with 38.9 seconds left. Butler hit a massive three with 22 seconds left to finally give the Heat another lead at 106-105.
Out of the Celtics timeout, Derrick Jones Jr. was called for a foul before the ball was inbounded, giving the Celtics a free throw and then possession, which Tatum sank to tie the game at 106. Jayson Tatum missed the last shot of regulation to confirm overtime.
The Celtics made it 110-106 to start the extra period. Dragic then used a crafty drive to force Daniel Theis to commit his sixth foul, taking him out of the game. Jae Crowder made a huge three to give Miami a 111-110 lead. Bam Adebayo pushed that lead to 113-110 with a fast break dunk thanks to a Tyler Herro assist.
With 32.7 seconds left in OT, Boston had possession with the score still 113-112. Walker hit a signature stepback jumper to make it 114-113 for the Celtics.
It was Jimmy Buckets time again, though. He drove to the basket, made it, and drew a foul with 12 seconds left. He calmly completed the And-1 to make it 116-114. On the next possession, Bam Adebayo showed why he is on the all-defensive first team, blocking Tatum’s dunk attempt. He then got fouled, and split his free throws to make it 117-114.
Tatum missed the game-tying three attempt to end the game.
This game was about hustle from both teams. They are both unafraid, play hard defense, and rarely give up on plays. If Game 1 was anything to go by, this is going to be an extremely fun series to watch.
It was a real Jekyll and Hyde performance for Miami as they scored 34 points in the first and third quarters while scoring 72 points in the second and fourth quarters. They’ll be looking to play more consistently through four quarter.
Dragic (29 points, seven rebounds, four assists) led the Heat in scoring. Butler (20 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals) had a slow start for the Heat but made some of their most important buckets. Jae Crowder shot well from beyond the arc (5 of 9) and contributed 22 points.
Tatum (30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals, two blocks) stuffed the stat sheet for the Celtics. Smart was second in scoring for the Celtics with 26 points.