Things looked great for the Boston Celtics heading into the second half of Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
Four Celtics had scored in double figures, they had moved the ball around very well and Marcus Smart had 10 assists at halftime. He was throwing passes like a prime Chris Paul and the Heat looked like they had no answer.
The Celtics also outscored the Heat 40-16 in the paint in the first half, which was a big contributor to their 66-57 halftime lead. By all accounts, it looked like the Celtics were on the way to a potential blowout victory in front of their fans. Unfortunately for the Celtics, they forgot that they were playing against a team led by Erik Spoelstra and Jimmy Butler.
The Heat again showed why they’re so dangerous even when things look like they’re going south. Their “I don’t give a fuck” attitude was on full display in the third quarter, where they completely manhandled the Celtics.
Butler, who is still not 100% due to the ankle sprain he suffered against the Knicks, keyed an impressive counterpunch in the third quarter, where Heat outscored the Celtics 46-25. He was all over the place on both ends and when the dust had cleared, the Celtics found themselves down 103-91 heading into the fourth quarter.
When they needed a big go-ahead bucket, Butler was there to make a tough and-one.
Then, when they needed a defensive stop to keep their momentum, he was there too.
Hell, when the Heat needed a “fuck you” three to pad their lead late in the fourth quarter, it was Jimmy Buckets who answered the call yet again.
Butler finished the game with 35 points, five rebounds, seven assists and a whopping six steals. He was absolutely unstoppable, and his teammates fed off his energy. At the end of the first half, only two Heat players had scored in double figures. By the end of the game, that number jumped up to six as roleplayers in Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Kyle Lowry all contributed 15 points.
Lowry, in particular, deserves credit, as his 13 points in the second quarter kept the game within reach. He made three-straight triple attempts in that quarter, and the game would have been much uglier for the Heat if he didn’t step up at that point.
Following their leader’s example, the Heat also took better care of the ball in that second half, only turning it over four times compared to 11 in the first half.
Bam Adebayo’s statline may not have been impressive as Butler’s, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a steal, but he worked his ass off to deny the Celtics good positioning on multiple occasions.
Now the Heat have to see if they can keep the momentum. They’ve shocked the Celtics, who were heavy favorites heading into the game. A collapse like that is hard to recover from, and Boston will have to shake it off in quick succession.