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Saturday, May 20, 2023

Heat Stun Celtics in Boston, Take 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals Lead

The Boston Celtics have made some of the best comebacks in NBA playoff history, and in order to return to the NBA Finals they will need to pull that off yet again after losing to the Miami Heat 111-105 in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals. Comebacks from 2-0 deficits are rare, and comebacks after losing two games at home are even rarer. The Heat, who finished seventh in the Eastern Conference during the regular season but ended up as the eighth seed after the Play-In Tournament, deserve a lot of credit for peaking at the most opportune time while overcoming postseason injuries suffered by third leading scorer Tyler Herro and key reserve Victor Oladipo.  

Jimmy Butler led the way with 27 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, and two blocked shots. Caleb Martin poured in 25 points on 11-16 field goal shooting in 32 minutes off of the bench. Martin is an undrafted player who began his career in the G League. Instead of tanking and trying to game the system, the Heat specialize in player development. Bam Adebayo contributed 22 points, a game-high 17 rebounds, and nine assists. 

Jayson Tatum will get much of the blame for Boston's loss because he is the team's best player and because he did not make a fourth quarter field goal for the second consecutive game, but he finished with 34 points on 10-20 field goal shooting while compiling 13 rebounds and eight assists with a +5 plus/minus number. The Celtics lost the six non-Tatum minutes by 11 points; that is not Tatum's fault, but to win the 2023 NBA title Tatum may have to figure out how to be even more productive to overcome his teammates' shortcomings. The drop off from Tatum's 34 points to Jaylen Brown's 16 points on 7-23 field goal shooting should be very concerning for the Celtics and their fans.

The Celtics outshot the Heat (.468 to .457) while making one more three pointer and three more free throws, but the Heat generated extra possessions by winning the rebounding battle 45-35 and by committing four fewer turnovers. 

This game featured many ebbs and flows. The Heat jumped out to a 9-2 lead, but the Celtics were up 25-24 by the end of the first quarter. The Celtics extended the margin to 40-28 early in the second quarter, but the Heat were up 54-50 by halftime. After Marcus Smart hit a three pointer to put the Celtics up 79-68 with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter, it looked like the Celtics would salvage this game and head to Miami looking to win at least one road game to reclaim homecourt advantage.

Game two--and perhaps this series--seemed to shift from Boston to Miami at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter when Butler and Grant Williams each received technical fouls after jawing at each other. The Celtics led 96-89, but the Heat closed the game with a 22-9 run during which Butler scored seven points. Butler's 12 foot jumper with 2:33 remaining gave the Heat a 102-100 lead, and the Heat never trailed again. The back and forth with Williams seemed to further inspire Butler, a player whose energy level and effort are already high. At one point, Butler screamed out that Williams is not the answer--but Butler's clutch play spoke even louder than any words that he said. In previous stops, Butler clashed with teammates and organizations that were not as focused on winning as he is, but the Heat--run by Pat Riley and ably coached by Erik Spoelstra--are the perfect squad for Butler. 

It is not impossible for the Celtics--a playoff-tested squad that plays well on the road--to win the next two games in Miami, but that will be a daunting task.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:34 AM



At Saturday, May 20, 2023 3:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Celtics can still win this series but they keep adding games to their tab and even if they make the comeback they'll be sitting at either 19 or 20 games already played before the Finals even start with what has mostly been (Grant Williams ill-advised cameo tonight nonwitstanding) a pretty short 7.5-man rotation.

The wear and tear is already starting to show on Horford and it may also be starting to show on Jaylen Brown. It is hard to imagine having to win 2/3 games in Miami allowing them to give either of those guys much of a blow. Tatum also carrying a monstrous load reminiscent of last season where he looked excellent until his bottle of Michael's Secret Stuff ran out for him in the Finals.

I am not a Celtics fan, but if I were I would be very concerned not just about finding a way to survive this series, but about how much my team could reasonably be expected to have left after.

I would also be hoping that Lakers/Nuggets goes 7, because the last thing I'd want after a grueling 6 or 7 game war with #HeatCulture would be a well-rested Jokic waiting to run me in the Finals.

At Saturday, May 20, 2023 9:07:00 AM, Anonymous Eric said...


Tatum will get his fair share of criticism and rightfully so. He must have caught a bug from James Harden last round as he has pulled a “Harden” (more TOs than FGs made) in both 4th quarters of Games 1 (3 TOs, 0 FGM) and 2 (2 TOs, 0 FGM). This is unacceptable for someone who has made the All-NBA 1st Team the last two seasons and who has declared himself as “humbly” one of the best players in the world. His inconsistency along with Jaylen Brown’s continued ineffectiveness have put the Cs in a big hole.

Grant Williams was foolish to rile up Jimmy when the Celtics were up by 9. We all saw what happened next.

Heat Culture is for real and this gritty Miami squad is halfway there to their second Finals appearance in four years.


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