Heat Outmuscle and Outshoot Celtics, Sending Series to Miami Tied at 2

Apr 24, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) shoots against Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown.
Apr 24, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) shoots against Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown. / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The script from Game 2 between the Celtics and Heat is one the former's fan base is quite familiar with.

After Boston surged to a 114-94 win in Sunday's series opener, Miami outmuscled the hosts of Wednesday's clash. 

That physicality impacted Kristaps Porzingis more than any other player donning Kelly green.

The seven-foot-three center, acquired with this series in mind, struggled to maintain positioning to punish switches and never found a rhythm. The Latvian native finished with six points on 1/9 shooting, went 0/4 on threes and was a minus-32, the lowest plus-minus rating in the matchup.

The Heat's physicality, coupled with their switch-heavy approach defensively, also bothered Porzingis' teammates and limited the Celtics to 12/32 (37.5%) from beyond the arc.

That comes on the heels of Boston burying 22/49 (44.9%) of its threes in Game 1.

At the other end of the floor, the defending Eastern Conference champions reconfigured their offense, leaning heavily into Bam Adebayo screening for Tyler Herro, plus operating with pace and decisiveness to consistently create quality shots.

That approach kept the Heat in rhythm throughout the night and translated to them drilling 23/43 (53.5%) of their triples. That's two shy of the playoff record set by the Cavaliers in 2016.

While Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 33 points, and Jayson Tatum put 28 on the board, Derrick White was their only teammate to reach double-figures (13 points).

Conversely, each of Miami's starters achieved that feat. Herro led the way with 24 points, pairing it with a game-high 14 assists. No one else on either side reached double digits in the latter category.

Adebayo combined his 21 points with ten rebounds, the most in the matchup. And Caleb Martin, relishing the chorus of boo birds that echoed every time he touched the ball, matched his star center's scoring output.

Now for a deep dive into what stood out as the Heat's 111-101 win to tie the series as it moves to South Beach unfolded.

1. Al Horford, the Celtics' sixth man when the team with the most talented top six in the NBA this season has their starting lineup intact, was excellent off the bench in his first shift on Wednesday.

The 16-year veteran repeatedly freed up teammates for open opportunities from beyond the arc. There was also an instance where an effective closeout by Bam Adebayo took away a potential corner three for Jaylen Brown; Horford then screened for the two-time All-Star on the drive, paving a path to a layup.

The former Florida Gator also cleaned up a missed three by Jrue Holiday for two of his three points and one of his four rebounds in the first frame. 

2. But at the other end of the floor, the Heat matched their most three-point makes for any quarter this season. Miami buried eight of 15 attempts, frequently generating open, in-rhythm shots from beyond the arc.

The visitors' pace and decisiveness with the ball were paramount to that success, helping Tyler Herro and Jaime Jaquez Jr. drill 2/3 triples.

Their hot shooting propelled them to a 28-27 edge entering the second quarter.

But Boston did get 14 points from Jayson Tatum, the most in the period, including two on an alley-oop from Jaylen Brown in transition.

3. The second frame was an offensive slugfest. Both teams shot over 50% from the field. The Heat converted on 5/9 (55.6%) of their threes, while the hosts made 6/12 attempts from behind the arc.

But a significant difference-maker in the Celtics putting 34 points on the board to Miami's 30 was the ability to force the latter into five turnovers, which helped the former build an 8-2 advantage in fast-break scoring and outscore the defending Eastern Conference champions 14-8 in the paint.

And with the Heat consistently creating clean looks when they weren't coughing the ball up, turnovers stemming that tide were critical to Boston taking a 61-58 lead into halftime.

4. So was a 9-0 run by Jaylen Brown. The 2022 All-NBA Second Team selection drilled three consecutive triples, capping that burst by swooping in for a steal, then burying a three, firing him up and sending the TD Garden faithful into a frenzy.

The Marietta, Georgia native entered intermission with 21 points, pacing all participants. He fared 9/15 from the field, including 3/6 from behind the arc.

While Tatum only had four points on 2/6 shooting in the second quarter, he entered the break with 18, the second-most in the matchup through the first 24 minutes.

Herro led Miami with 12 points while Jaquez chipped in 11, as did Caleb Martin, relishing the chorus of boos he received from the TD Garden crowd every time he touched the ball. He appeared to pull more from being the villain than if he was playing in front of his home crowd.

5. Entering the fourth quarter Kristaps Porzingis was having one of his worst nights as a Celtic. The seven-foot-three center was a bottom-dwelling minus-29 through the first 36 minutes.

Despite consistently getting open looks from beyond the arc and mismatches on post-ups, he was 1/9 from the field in that span, including 0/4 from three. 

The Latvian native also had some careless passes and is largely responsible for a turnover on an entry attempt where he failed to seal Nikola Jovic.

6. Despite staying on the floor for 9:42 of the 12 minutes in the third quarter, it took until the 2:20 mark for Tatum to produce his first points in the period.

He registered six in the frame, a microcosm of Boston's struggles to score in the first 12 minutes after halftime. The Heat outpaced the hosts 27-18, taking an 85-79 lead into the fourth quarter.

7. With Miami doing an excellent job of keeping its shooters in rhythm, even the visitors' lower-quality and better-contested looks started going down in the fourth quarter.

A simple drive-and-kick for a Haywood Highsmith three from the left wing was a prime example.

8. Conversely, by the 2:10 mark in the period, the hosts had only taken four shots from beyond the arc. The inability to generate those attempts reflected the Heat being the more physical team, successfully fighting to keep Boston from gaining favorable positioning.

9. The Celtics pulled within six, 102-96, with 3:16 left, courtesy of free throws by Tatum, but they could never string together the stops or points necessary to rally.

10. Game 3 between the Celtics and Heat is on Saturday at the Kaseya Center. That matchup will tip off at 6:00 EST.

Further Reading

Jaylen Brown on Confronting Caleb Martin: 'Got My Guy's Back'

The Keys to Kristaps Porzingis Containing Bam Adebayo and What to Watch for in Game 2

Celtics Bench Stars in Its Role in Game 1 Win vs. Heat: 'An Identity of Our Team'

Jayson Tatum Discusses First-Career Playoff Triple-Double: 'A Beautiful Game'

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

Kristaps Porzingis Makes Clear What Celtics' Mindset is Entering Playoffs

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

Brad Stevens Addresses Potential Extension with Derrick White

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented


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Bobby Krivitsky

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.