Celtics Protect the Parquet in Dominant Display in Game 1 vs. Heat

Apr 21, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball against the Miami Heat.
Apr 21, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots the ball against the Miami Heat. / Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday marked the start of the seventh playoff series between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat since 2010. It's the NBA's most common matchup in that span.

The former didn't just enter this round aiming to avenge last year's Eastern Conference Finals loss but also determined to atone for faring 5-6 on their parquet in the prior postseason.

On the same floor the Heat celebrated on after ending the Celtics' season and punching their ticket to the NBA Finals a year ago, the hosts, dialed in from the start, raced out to a 14-0 lead.

While they let their foot off the gas in the final frame, a 91-59 cushion entering the last 12 minutes afforded them enough insurance to prevent the visitors from doing more than making the ending uncomfortable for the TD Garden faithful.

But despite parlaying six Boston turnovers into 13 points, the closest Miami got in the fourth quarter was when it pulled within 14.

Jayson Tatum registered a triple-double in the Celtics' 114-94 victory. It's the first one the franchise has had since Marcus Smart did so in a double-overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors in the bubble in 2020.

The five-time All-Star finished with 23 points, ten rebounds, and ten assists. His willingness to consistently make the unselfish play as he balanced making his mark as a scorer with punishing the Heat as a facilitator when they sent a second defender at him consistently created quality looks for the hosts.

That helped the Celtics fare 22/49 (44.9%) from beyond the arc. They paired that production with a stymying defense that thwarted the visitors' efforts to find a reliable source of offense until Boston's parade of turnovers in the final 12 minutes.

While Bam Adebayo put 24 points on the board, the C's held Miami under 25 points in each of the first three quarters.

Here's what stood out as they did so in a deep dive examining what unfolded throughout the Celtics' 114-94 series-opening win.

1. In the 31 regular season games that the Celtics' top six were available, they went 24-7, averaging 118.9 points, yielding only 107.5 per contest.

Their two-way prowess was on display immediately when Sunday's series opener got underway at TD Garden. Boston raced out to a 14-0 edge that increased to 15, the hosts' largest lead of the first frame, when Jrue Holiday snagged a Kristaps Porzingis missed three, leading to Jayson Tatum burying a shot from beyond the arc to extend their advantage to 17-2.

Playing with considerable energy, they consistently got stops, pushed the pace, and created quality looks at the offensive end. That includes Jaylen Brown, who scored Sunday's first five points, spinning past Jaime Jaquez Jr., leaving him in his wake, as he elevated for a two-handed flush.

2. The Heat's zone defense slowed down the Celtics' offense, helping them narrow the gap to 26-21 entering the second quarter.

Porzingis paced all participants with seven points in the first 12 minutes. Tatum provided five points and dished out as many assists.

But after a fast start, Boston finished the first period shooting 38.5% from the field, including 6/18 (33.3%) from three-point range.

Bam Adebayo led Miami with six points, with his production helping the visitors manufacture a 14-6 edge in the paint.

3. The Celtics leveraged the visitors' zone defense and the attention Tatum and Brown commanded with the ball in their hands, with Hauser and Pritchard often getting quality looks from beyond the arc because of it.

They paired inside-out ball movement with a willingness to make the extra swing pass to help make that happen. There were also several Al Horford screen assists freeing up Hauser.

The six-foot-eight sharpshooter entered halftime with 12 points on 4/6 shooting from three-point range. Pritchard produced eight and distributed four assists. They combined for six triples, doubling Miami's output in the opening 24 minutes.

4. A 24-16 edge in points in the paint was pivotal to the visitors staying within 15, trailing 60-45 at intermission.

Still, Tatum consistently made them pay for sending a second defender at him, repeatedly making the unselfish play to facilitate for his teammates. The five-time All-Star still scored 15 points, leading all scorers at the break. He paired that with eight rebounds and six assists, also the most in the first half.

5. A driving force in the Celtics acquiring Porzingis was a potential series against the Heat. His ability to punish switches and produce points on post-ups is paramount to their success.

But on Sunday, the way he did much of his damage as a scorer was popping behind the arc after screening, where he buried four of his first seven threes, tallying 16 points in the first 36 minutes. 

6. He contributed to a three-point barrage, as Boston buried 7/13 triples and paired it with a stifling defense that held Miami to 6/21 (28.6%) shooting, including 2/14 (14.3% from three-point range).

That two-way dominance translated to outscoring the Heat 31-14 and breaking the game open. Porzingis and Brown had ten points each. No one on Miami scored seven. The hosts entered the final frame in firm control with a 91-59 advantage.

7. The Celtics weren't at their best in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 29-12 with just under four minutes left in the period and committing five turnovers that the Heat parlayed into 13 points. 

That fueled an 18-2 run, pulling Miami within 15, 103-88, with 3:57 remaining.

But Tatum dishing to Derrick White for a three that secured Boston's first playoff triple-double since Marcus Smart did so in a double-overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors in the bubble in 2020 helped the hosts fend off the visitors' comeback attempt. Tatum finished with 23 points, ten rebounds, and ten assists.

But as the final buzzer approached, tempers flared. Caleb Martin body-checked Tatum, drawing an uproar from the home crowd. But while the star forward quickly popped up, then walked down court to the free-throw line, Brown came to his defense, getting in Martin's face.

A double-technical got issued to Brown and Martin, Tatum tacked on four points at the free-throw line, and Boston completed its 114-94 win.

8. Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Finals rematch will take place on Wednesday night. That matchup will tip off at 7:00 EST at TD Garden.

Further Reading

Kristaps Porzingis Makes Clear What Celtics' Mindset is Entering Playoffs

How do the Heat Adapt Without Jimmy Butler? Joe Mazzulla Weighs in

'I Knew It': Jaylen Brown Discusses Celtics Drawing Heat in Round 1

Brad Stevens Addresses Potential Extension with Derrick White

Jrue Holiday on Celtics Extension: 'Try to Get More Banners, Get More Rings'

Jaylen Brown Shares What Latest Milestone Means to Him

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.