The Eastern Conference Finals began last night with Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. What started as a close game and the Celtics ahead, ended with complete second-half domination by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
Butler led Miami to a 118-107 victory thanks to his massive stat line. The Miami superstar ended Game 1 with 41 minutes played, 41 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. His offensive command was met with an equally paramount defensive showing. Butler recorded five steals and four blocks on Tuesday. The dominant play by Butler was complimented by the Celtics missing two of their most important players and Miami playing exceptional defense.
Miami entered the third quarter down by eight points after Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown refused to get down in the first half. It was a somewhat surprising effort by Boston, as they were without defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart (foot), and Al Horford (health and safety protocols).
Being down at the half sparked some crucial changes for Miami at halftime. The player-led adjustments in the locker room inspired an entirely new approach to the game in the third quarter. Miami’s defense stole the show, allowing their team to go on a 22-2 run to start the second half. The Heat went on to score 39 third-quarter points, allowing Boston just 14.
Butler’s dominance continued into the fourth quarter when he blocked a huge three-point shot for Tatum, elevating the energy, and nearly sealing the game for the Heat.
The Celtics almost came back in the fourth quarter. But in the end, Butler couldn’t be stopped, and Miami’s defense wasn’t going to back down.
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will take place on Thursday on Miami’s home court. Miami is at a huge advantage due to the fact they have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. Bam Adebayo and the rest of the Heat’s core players have already shown they can contain Tatum and Brown. What will happen when the Celtics’ defensive star comes back?
Marcus Smart is rumored to be returning to the lineup for Game 2. This will provide another challenge for Miami’s defense, and another limit for Miami’s offense at the hands of Smart’s unbelievable defensive abilities. Al Horford will likely not return for Game 2.
If the Celtics want to keep their chances of advancement alive, they will have to win on Thursday to ensure they don’t get too far behind. One thing is for sure, Jimmy Butler and the Heat don’t make it easy to come back.