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Miami's Stars Stepped Up When It Mattered Most in Game 1

Three thoughts on Miami’s thrilling 117–114 overtime win over Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals:

Miami’s big players made big, big plays. This wasn’t Jimmy Butler’s finest performance. He scored 20 points. He pulled down five rebounds. He handed out five assists. But with under 30 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, there was Butler, knocking down a three to give the Heat a one-point lead. And with time winding down in overtime, there was Butler, getting to his favorite spot on the right side of the floor, bullying in a runner through Jayson Tatum to give Miami a two-point lead.

Bam Adebayo won’t frame this stat sheet, either. He scored 18 points, he pulled down six rebounds, he handed out nine assists. Good numbers. But when Tatum drove past Butler and cocked back for a game tying dunk, there was Adebayo, getting a hand between Tatum and the rim, sending back the shot and sending the Celtics All-Star forward to the floor.

There was plenty to like in this game: Miami’s resiliency when falling behind by 14 in the fourth quarter; Tyler Herro’s moxie in banging in a tough three-pointer to cut a five-point lead to two in the final minute; Goran Dragic’s 29 points, which kept the Heat in the game in the first half. But when Miami needed its stars, they were there in a big way.

Kemba Walker’s shooting woes continue. For the third straight game, Walker connected on less than 32% of his shots and for the fifth straight game his three-point percentage hovered in the teens. Miami hounded Walker with traps all game, keeping him out of rhythm. Walker kept shooting, firing up nine three’s … and making just one of them. It doesn’t appear there is anything physically wrong with Walker, who has battled a knee injury in recent months. He played 43 minutes, his third straight game playing 40-plus. He just looks completely out of rhythm. Miami’s well-coached defenders stayed on his step-back jumper all game, and Walker saw a steady diet of bigger bodies. Defensively, the Heat attacked Walker, searching for him on that end of the floor.

“I’m just playing terrible, to be honest,” Walker said. “Not much I can say but I have to be better. I have to do better for this team on both ends of the floor, have to make better decisions, just have to make shots overall.”

Boston’s end-of-game failures. Brad Stevens is an excellent play caller. Full stop. But the Celtics' last two possessions at the end of regulation were head scratchers. Up by two with a minute left, Boston handed the ball to Walker, who dribbled out 20 seconds, drove straight into Jae Crowder and had his shot blocked. On the next possession, with the game tied, Walker dribbled for another 15 seconds, flipped the ball to Tatum beyond the three-point line, and watched as Tatum fired up a contested 27-foot jumper. Why was Walker, who had been struggling mightily, given an isolation play? Why didn’t the Celtics have something more creative cooked up for the final possession? Miami is too good defensively to simply drive into.

“I think [Miami’s] switching has something to do with it,” Brad Stevens said. “We need to handle it better, there's no question about it. Not only was there probably too much pounding of the ball, it was also not as much space the way they were guarding. We need to do a better job of that. We'll go back and look at different ways we can attack better at the end of the game.”