The Boston Celtics are the latest team unable to come up with an answer for Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
The Heat, which initially looked outmatched at TD Garden on Wednesday night, rallied in the second half and held on to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Butler scored 35 points and helped lead the Heat to a massive 46-point performance in the third quarter before claiming a 123-116 victory at Boston.
After a close first quarter, the Celtics finally took the lead in the second after a massive 20-5 run midway through the period. This briefly gave Boston a 13-point lead, before having to settle for a 9-point advantage at halftime. While the Heat shot nearly 54% from the field as a team in the first half and trailed by 15 points from Butler, they recorded 9 turnovers for 19 points from the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum also had 18 of his 30 points in the first half, and the Celtics took a massive 40-16 lead in points scored in the paint. Much of that came from center Robert Williams, who had 12 points and didn’t miss a single shot from the hallway in the first 24 minutes.
The Heat turned the game completely around to start the second half and tied things up almost instantly after opening the third on a 21-12 run while shooting 9 of 13 from the field. It left Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla livid.
Miami didn’t stop there. The Heat had 46 points in the third quarter and edged Boston by 21 points in the period to suddenly take a 12-point lead, their biggest of the game. They went 6 of 9 from behind the arc as a team and had just one turnover during the period. He scored the highest-scoring playoff quarterback in Heat history.
As Boston got the game to 5-pointers in the first 94 seconds of the fourth quarter and held it for most of the period, it was Caleb Martin who drilled a wide-open 3-pointer late before Butler got him. follows suit with a wild bucket over Malcolm Brogdon that sealed the 7-point victory.
Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points and 7 rebounds in the loss, despite having just 4 shot attempts in the second half and none in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown added 22 points and 9 rebounds, and Brogdon finished with 19 points off the bench. The Celtics, who narrowly edged the Philadelphia 76ers in their semifinal series after a 51-point performance from Tatum on Sunday, shot just 10 of 29 from the 3-point line as a team Wednesday night.
Butler added a playoff career-high 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 6 steals in the Heat’s win — which reached the conference finals after outscoring the New York Knicks 4-2. Bam Adebayo finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Miami shot just better than 54 percent from the field as a team and went 16 of 31 from the 3-point line.
The Heat looked very solid in their sixth straight Game 1 win. They now hold the advantage at the start of a series that many did not expect them to fight in, especially considering where they started the playoffs in the play-in tournament.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Friday night. While there’s still a long way to go in the conference finals, the Celtics don’t want to be in a two-game hole before they have to travel to Miami on Sunday.