After a brilliant 41-point performance in the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals, Butler was once again locked in for Game 2 at the FTX Arena and ready to lead the Miami Heat to a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics.
Miami raced to an 18-8 lead over the first five minutes of the match following Max Strus’ second three-pointer of the evening, but that proved to be the high point of the game for them. Strus would not score another basket for the rest of the contest in what would become symbolic of the Heat supporting cast’s forgettable night.
The Celtics responded to the early 10-point deficit with a 27-6 run over the rest of the first quarter and cruised to a 127-102 bounce back win that tied the series at 1-1. Boston’s lead did not go below 10 points after the opening period and even led by as much as 34. in the fourth quarter
Butler put up a valiant fight, scoring 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting along with six rebounds, three assists, and a steal in 32 minutes.
However, the rest of his team, besides Gabe Vincent who chipped in with 14 points, were unable to provide him with much help.
Bam Adebayo has been a consistent defensive force in these playoffs though his scoring has greatly dropped off over Miami’s last four games dating back to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Adebayo took only six shot attempts and wound up with only six points in 28 uneventful minutes of action. This measly output tied his previous lowest scoring game of the postseason which came in their playoff opening blowout win against the Atlanta Hawks.
The one-time NBA All-Star Adebayo is the clear cut best center in this series and will have to start playing like it if the Heat are to bounce back from this loss.
More consistency will be needed from their reserve guards Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro as well. While they finished with 14 and 11 points, respectively, their final statistics were padded by meaningless baskets in the tailend of this blowout loss.
Oladipo, in particular, waited until the dying seconds of the third period when the game was already well out of reach to score his first points of the evening. Although he is not expected to regain his All NBA form from four years ago, he should at least produce the solid supporting numbers that he put up in the prior round.
One of Miami’s biggest advantages in this series is their depth, especially when it comes to the scoring that Oladipo and Herro provide off the bench, and they will have to be more consistent–or at least alternate their good games–moving forward.
The presence of their starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who won an NBA title in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors, was especially missed this evening. Still sidelined for the foreseeable future with a hamstring strain, Lowry’s stabilizing presence would have been invaluable for the Heat when the Celtics were making their run.
With this best-of-seven tilt shifting to Boston for the next two games, the Heat will have to steal at least one win to regain home court in this match-up. The Celtics proved that their flat showing in Game 1 was more of a blip and Miami will have to respond in the same manner come Game 3.
Given the current landscape of the league, it seems as if the winner of this match-up will be favored moving into the NBA Finals versus whomever emerges from the Western Conference. This should incentivize these two title hungry teams even more and the next game will be crucial in gaining control of this series.
A big game from Butler is practically guaranteed at this point, but he will need the rest of his supporting cast to step up if they want to make it out of the East for the second time in three years. Adebayo has done it before and should be able to do it again. Meanwhile for Strus, Vincent, Herro, and even Oladipo, just one big game in this series could help them secure a lucrative payday when their current contracts are up.
Moments like these are the breeding ground of legends and these Heat players would be wise to answer Butler’s call to give him a hand.