Outscoring the Boston Celtics by 19 points in the second-half, the Miami Heat came back from an eight point halftime deficit in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to take an early 1-0 series lead, inching one step closer to reaching the NBA Finals for the second-time in the last three seasons.
Jimmy Butler has been the leader of the Heat all year long and in the postseason, he has had some magical performances. Game 1 of this series against Boston was no exception, as Butler went for 41 points on 12-19 shooting.
The All-Star wing also finished the game with 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks, proving that he is one of the best all-around players in the league right now.
As a team, the Heat shot 48.8% from the floor and it was what they did in the third quarter of this game that really set the standard for this series moving forward.
The Celtics were held to just 14 points coming out of halftime and the Heat’s defense was all over the place, limiting Jayson Tatum's abilities to drive towards the rim, something he found a lot of success doing in the first-half.
Boston was never able to get comfortable in the second-half of this game until late in the fourth quarter and by then, the damage had been done.
Marcus Smart was out due to a foot sprain and Al Horford also missed this contest for the Celtics due to unexpectedly entering the league’s health and safety protocols.
Both of their absences negatively affected the Celtics and now, heading into Game 2 on Thursday, it will be very interesting to see how Ime Udoka’s squad responds to what occurred on Tuesday night in Miami.
Here is what we learned from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
Jimmy Butler Wants A Ring
If there is one thing we have learned about the Miami Heat throughout these playoffs, it is that Jimmy Butler elevates his game to new heights when there is a championship on the line.
During the regular season, Butler was great for the Heat, averaging 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.6 steals and shooting 48% from the floor. He was named an All-Star for the sixth-time in his career as a result.
In the playoffs this year, Jimmy Butler is averaging 29.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.3 steals and is shooting 53.5% from the floor. We saw glimpses of Butler’s full potential in the 2020 playoffs down in the NBA Bubble when he led the Heat to the NBA Finals and this season, he has been even better!
On Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat’s All-Star was fantastic and he scored a total of 41 points against arguably the best defensive team in the league in the Boston Celtics.
Whether it was Grant Williams, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or someone else, it really did not matter who was guarding Jimmy Butler in Game 1 because he was able to get to his spots with ease and most importantly, he was able to control the pace of play.
Not only did Butler go 12-19 from the floor, a highly efficient shooting night, but he went 17-18 from the free-throw line and was able to take over this game in the third quarter when the Heat outscored the Celtics 39-14.
Moving forward in this series, it is going to be very interesting to see how the Celtics defend Butler, but who knows if they will actually be able to stop him given how dominant he has been in these playoffs.
Boston’s Defense Is Really Good, Miami’s Defense Is Great
Coming into this series, many were talking about the Boston Celtics and how great their defense is. Boston is a really strong defensive team and they deserve a lot of credit for what they did against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but it seems like what the Miami Heat have done defensively is being overshadowed.
The Heat ranked fifth in the league in defensive rating during the regular season and they only surrendered an average of 105.6 points per game to their opponents, the fourth-best mark in the league.
Without Al Horford and Marcus Smart, the Celtics’ defense obviously struggled in Game 1, but the Heat were fantastic defensively during the second-half of this game, stopping Jayson Tatum in his tracks and really limiting Boston’s scoring efficiency.
This team's identity was built on the defensive-end of the floor and this has shown so far in the playoffs.
All night long, the Heat took advantage of lazy passes made by the Celtics and their defense was brilliant in terms of collapsing on the Celtics when Boston looked to get to the rim.
Time-and-time again, either Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler were coming up with a big block that allowed the Heat to run in transition and get some easy baskets at the other end of the floor.
It almost looks like at times that the five members of the Miami Heat out on the floor are on a string tied to one another, which makes them an elite-level defensive team since they all move in unison. Jayson Tatum cannot do everything for the Celtics on offense and in order to try and break down this stellar Heat defense, someone else will have to step up for them.
Payton Pritchard Is Not Some Random Guy On End Of Celtics’ Bench
The Heat were great defensively, Jimmy Butler was fantastic on offense and the Boston Celtics really struggled to get anything going in the second-half of Game 1.
This is basically a quick summarization of what occurred on Tuesday night, but a positive Boston can take away from this game is the fact that Payton Pritchard once again delivered big minutes off-the-bench.
In just his second season, Pritchard is really starting to come into his own and he is beginning to understand his value to the Celtics as a jump-shooter on the perimeter.
One of the problems with the young guard entering the NBA was his size and stature given that he is undersized compared to most guards in the league. However, he really does not need to be a primary ball-handler and have size as a point guard for the Celtics because they have Tatum and Brown as their primary facilitator and ball-handlers.
This allows Pritchard to play to his main strength and that is shooting from the perimeter.
While he is only averaging about 14.1 minutes per game in these playoffs, Payton Pritchard has gone 15-42 (35.7%) from three-point range and over his last two games, Pritchard has shot 8-17 (47.1%) from three-point range, scoring a total of 32 points off-the-bench in 47 total minutes.
Payton Pritchard played a total of 30 minutes in the absence of Marcus Smart in Game 1 on Tuesday and while he may not seem upwards of 30 minutes again, his production is exactly what Boston wants to see and needs to see.
Depth is going to play a big role in this series given how many players the Heat can turn to on offense and for the Celtics, they really have not had steady production outside of Tatum and Brown all year long.
Having someone like Pritchard who can come into the game and knock down multiple three-pointers is extremely valuable and he could prove to be a real difference-maker in this series for the Celtics.