Tuesday, May 30, 2023

NBA Playoffs 2023: Celtics look to bounce back in Game 2 while Heat could pick up the pace

Celtics and Heat takeaways after Game 1

Sebastian Martinez Christensen looks forward to Boston and Miami in the next duel of their series.

As they did the previous year, Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat drove into the TD Garden, overcame a 13-point deficit, and took home-field advantage in contention to beat the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics came back from that loss to win Game 2 and eventually take the series in seven games to win their way to the NBA Finals. The Celtics face a similar task in this Eastern Finals after the Heat outscored them 46–25 in the third quarter to take a 123–116 Game 1 victory.

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Still, Boston has the confidence to know that they were in the same situation last year and won.

The Celtics can use the Game 2 win to build momentum in the series and attempt to return to the Finals under first-year coach Joe Mazzulla, while the Heat have what they failed to achieve in Game 2 of the year. There is a chance to get it. past. and send the series back to Miami with an impressive 2–0 lead.

Here’s a breakdown of the biggest takeaways from the series so far, and what they could mean for Boston and Miami as the series continues.

Boston Can’t Afford Another Disastrous Fourth

Much of the focus is on the third quarter of Game 1, when Miami turned the game around to beat Boston 46–25 and give the Heat their third series-opening win in the playoffs.

But the story of this game goes further than that. Most important points: 10 assists in the first half and one in the second half by Marcus Smart.

The Celtics are at their best when they move the ball, and especially when Smart is orchestrating it. While he isn’t known for his offense (he was NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2021-22), Smart has always been an underrated enabler. For a team that sees the ball slow in attack, ball speed is essential.

As the game slipped away from Boston in the second half, that’s exactly what happened: The offense switched to isolation situations, Boston began turning the ball over, and Miami ran the other way for easy baskets.

After Game 1, Smart said, “We got really worried.”

“In the second half, we were all tickling each other.”

Boston went from 15 assists and five turnovers in the first half to seven assists and 10 turnovers in the second half. It’s a reminder that the Celtics must improve their ball speed if they want to even up the series.

— Tim Bontemps

Boston moves to Tatum’s rhythm

All-Star Jayson Tatum has proven time and time again that he can take over games. Look no further than Game 7 of Sunday’s Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, where his 51 points, the most in a Game 7, propelled the Celtics to the Conference Finals.

Yet at the end of Wednesday’s Game 1 loss to the Heat, that version of Tatum wasn’t around: He didn’t even take a shot in the fourth quarter.

According to Second Spectrum Tracking, Game 1 featured the second fewest touches (13) and dribbles (34) by Tatum in the fourth quarter of this postseason.

Which begs the question: How exactly can the Celtics spread the floor to help Tatum?

“You have to fight for the advantage,” said Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla. “You have to fight to create separation. So it’s important to be able to adjust how we play against changes in defence.”

Boston’s congested field position against Miami’s changing defensive schemes resulted in a slow second half, which at times limited Tatum, as he was whistled twice in the fourth quarter for running with the ball. .

“I have to slow down a little bit at that point,” Tatum said.

Much of Tatum’s difficulty scoring in the fourth quarter was due to Butler, who defended Tatum more than any other player in the game. During Game 1, when Butler defended him, Tatum shot just 38% from the field. Tatum made 60% of his shots when he was defended by other Heat players.

— Collie Harvey

Butler carries Miami into the playoffs

After Game 1, Heat guard Gabe Vincent was asked to describe the feeling inside the Heat’s locker room after his impressive comeback to win.

“We’re not satisfied,” Vincent said.

Since the post-season crash in Miami, it has played with a swagger as the best team in the East rather than the No. 8 seed in the midst of a historic streak, three games shy of another Finals appearance. When asked to describe the confidence of the group going into Game 2 on Friday, Kyle Lowry was quick to respond.

“You listen to Jimmy, don’t you?” Lori said.

Lowry’s response really speaks to how players and coaches within the Heat organization feel. So coach Erik Spoelstra said after Game 1 that Butler’s impact on the rest of the group could not be quantified.

Persistence, the key for the Heat to beat the Celtics

Led by Jimmy Butler, Miami turned the game in the third quarter to take home-field advantage away from Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Finals.

The difference between the Heat now and the Heat just before the playoffs begins with Butler’s ability to prop the team up on his back.

After Game 1, Spoelstra once again praised Butler, especially his performance late in the win.

“As one of the leading, if not the leading, two-way basketball players in this association, that’s what we needed,” Spoelstra said. “We needed him to make some plays defensively. We needed to catch the ball defensively as well … And then down the stretch, Jimmy was able to do whatever we needed as a scorer or facilitator.” I was able to. He’s willing to do both.”

It’s a feeling that can’t be measured by just looking at Butler’s Game 1 box score of 35 points, 7 assists, 6 steals and 5 rebounds, and it remains the most defining characteristic of this particular Heat career.

The confidence within the group is strong and Butler is fueling it a little more every day.

Nick Friedel

History favors Boston in Game 2

There is one notable post-season trend that has continued into these playoffs: teams that lose Game 1 at home win Game 2, often in landslides. The last team to lose both home games to start the series was the LA Clippers in their 2021 first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, who came from behind to win in seven games.

Since then, the home loser of Game 1 is 16–0 in Game 2 with an average margin of victory of 17.2 points. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to test this trend this year: The home team’s eight Game 1 losses are the most of any post season in NBA history.

Incredibly, three of those road wins came from Miami, which won the first game of all three series without home field advantage. So far, the Heat haven’t been able to take a 2-0 lead in either series, losing by 16 points to the Milwaukee Bucks under a hail of 3-pointers and by six points to the New York Knicks without Butler, who was out with an ankle injury. I lost the match with a sprain.

Those Game 2 losses haven’t stopped Miami from winning every series, and overall, Game 1 road winners have won five of seven this year. However, in the long run, a split on the road isn’t really a good situation for the lowest seeded team. The team with home field advantage still wins a slim majority of those series (51% of seven-game series since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984).

As a result, the Heat could not feel comfortable with a win in Boston.

– Kevin Pelton

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