The Miami Heat looked out of sorts in the first half of their Game 1 against the Boston Celtics in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. They fell behind by as much as 13 points in the second half and looked like they didn’t have an answer for Jayson Tatum, who had 21 points, four rebounds and five assists while shooting 9 of 14 from the field over the first two quarters.
To add insult to injury, the Celtics were missing two key rotation players in Al Horford, who was put in health and safety protocols, while Marcus Smart was out due to a foot sprain.
Then, seemingly in a flash, the Heat turned on the jets in the third quarter. Led by Jimmy Butler, who erupted for 17 points in the third quarter, the Heat used hard-nosed defense and great transition offense to go on a 22-2 run that flipped the game on its head. Butler used a mix of his midrange game and straight-up bully ball to get the majority of his points in the quarter.
Something’s clicked recently with Butler, as he’s been getting a lot better at drawing fouls and getting to the line, which has helped salvage points for Miami when plays break down. Today’s game was the fifth time in 11 playoff games so far that Butler has taken at least 10 free throws.
It also certainly helped that his teammates, like Gabe Vincent, were ready to make tough shots as well.
By the time the fourth quarter started, the Heat had put together a 25-point turnaround to take a 93-76 lead into the final 12 minutes. They held Tatum to eight points in the second half, which was a big reason behind their success.
The Celtics never managed to get a big run going again, as the Heat finished the game with 10 steals and 12 blocks to help stem the flow of Boston’s offense.
All credit for the 118-107 win goes to Miami and their resilient nature. The Celtics are going to need Horford and Smart back by Game 3 at latest, because the Heat are just going to grow in confidence after this big Game 1 victory.
Butler was definitely the hero of the game as he finished with another all-round great game with 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. He shot 12 of 19 from the field and made 17 of 18 free throws. This was Butler’s third 40+ point performance in the 2022 playoffs, and it looks like he might have a few more left in him.
Vincent finished the game with 15, while Tyler Herro had a strong performance off the bench with 17 points and three steals.
Bam Adebayo may not have had the strongest performance of his career on offense, but he stilled played a key role as he had 10 points, four rebounds and four blocks in 36 minutes of play.