The Boston Celtics opened their2022 Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat on Tuesday. The Heat were looking to open the series with a victory on their home floor. The Celtics wanted to steal homecourt advantage from Miami with a Boston victory in Game 1. The Heat, however, outscored the Celtics by a game-shifting 25 points in the third quarter to take control of the affair and hand Boston a 1-0 deficit in the series.
The Celtics’ star forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 53 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, and 5 steals in the loss. Miami star Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 41 points, 17 of which he earned at the charity stripe. Payton Pritchard and Tyler Herro each scored 18 points off the bench for their respective teams.
Here are 3 observations from the Celtics’ Game 1 loss.
Boston won the 50-50 balls, offensive glass early:
The Celtics jumped out to an early lead largely because they beat Heat Culture at its own game. Every time there was a loose ball, there was a Celtic launching himself to the wood, jersey pressed against the floor, wiggling the rock away from anyone else to try and secure an extra possession or take one away from Miami.
If the Celtics weren’t getting to loose balls, they were running routes to the basket when their teammates’ shots went up, sneaking behind the Heat for extra possessions courtesy of the offensive glass.
Boston capitalized on Miami’s early lethargy, building a double-digit lead with swarming defense and winning the effort battle in the most quantifiable ways.
The Bam Effect:
All the good Boston did in the first half was essentially wiped away by one thing, and it had as much to do with their previous opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks, as it did with the Miami Heat.
The Celtics got comfortable against and were able to capitalize on Milwaukee’s drop coverage scheme in defending pick-and-rolls. The likes of Jayson Tatum and other green ball-handlers were given space upon peeling off the ball screen to do as they pleased as Milwaukee shaded towards the rim to take away baskets in the paint.
Miami, though, deploys quite the contrast in coverage. Their nature is to switch the ball screen, with Bam Adebayo versatile enough to apply defensive pressure across numerous positions. Boston was visibly bothered by the stark change in scheme in their fatal 3rd-quarter drubbing, committing a bevy of live-ball turnovers in the open floor because Miami made it impossible for them to advance the ball past the arc with the switch and off- ball tagging that they deploy.
Jimmy Butler, period.
What can you say?
Jimmy Butler plays it cool, publicly ignoring much of the commentary about Miami’s run to the Finals in the 2020 bubble playoffs. Internally, it clearly burns him. That burn has fueled a superstar run. After dusting off the Hawks, Butler dismantled the Sixers. He continued the run against perhaps the best defense in the entire NBA.
41 points, 19 field goal attempts, 18 free throws. 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.
Simply a masterpiece.
Boston has reason not to panic. Neither of Al Horford and Marcus Smart, 2 of the Celtics’ best defenders, played in the game. Perhaps their availabilities will shift everything and neutralize Butler. But the longer those 2 remain out, Boston’s margin of error gets smaller by every passing day.
The Celtics (0-1) will try to steal back homecourt advantage in Game 2 in Miami (1-0) on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 PM, Eastern time. You can catch the action on ESPN.
This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook!
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