The Boston Celtics started off strong, but a nightmare third quarter was the difference in their Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
Miami outscored Boston by 25 points in the third quarter and ran away with a 118-107 victory at FTX Arena to begin the Eastern Conference Finals. Jimmy Butler wreaked havoc on both ends for the Heat with 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tyler Herro added 18 points off the bench and Gabe Vincent filled in admirably for Kyle Lowry with 17 points.
Jayson Tatum notched 29 points (10-21 FG, 2-9 3-PT), but Miami's smothering defense caused the Celtics star to turn the ball over seven times. Jaylen Brown had 24 points while Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard chipped in 18 apiece.
Game 2 in Miami is set for Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Celtics will hope to have Marcus Smart (right mid-foot sprain) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols) back in the mix for that one.
Here are our takeaways from the Celtics' Game 1 defeat.
Disastrous third quarter proves costly
The Celtics got off to a hot start and took an eight-point lead into the half. Whatever they did in the locker room during halftime, they'll want to avoid it in Game 2 as the third quarter was an utter disaster.
Miami went on a ridiculous 22-2 run to begin the second half. The Celtics were 0-for-7 to begin the third quarter and didn't make a shot until seven minutes into the frame. They went on a brief 9-0 run but were outscored by the Heat 17-3 in the final 4:03. Miami ended up outscoring Boston 39-14 in the quarter and went into the fourth with a 15-point lead.
That's the most points the Celtics have given up in a quarter this postseason and the fewest they've scored. It's the second-worst quarter in Celtics playoff history, only trailing the second quarter of Game 2 vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 (40-13).
The Celtics didn't do much of anything right in the nightmare quarter, but turnovers were the primary issue. Tatum had six of his seven TOs in the frame. Brown had the other two.
Boston outscored Miami in all three other quarters.
Heat stars outplay Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown
The Celtics' All-Star tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown was simply outplayed on both ends of the floor by Miami's playmakers.
Jimmy Butler was the star with his third 40-point game of the playoffs. Of his 41 points, 27 came in the second half. He lived at the free-throw line and hit 17 of his 18 shots from the charity stripe. He was 12-for-19 from the floor and was a force on the defensive end with four steals and three blocks.
Also stepping up to sink the C's was Tyler Herro, who gave Boston flashbacks of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals in the Orlando bubble. The Sixth Man of the Year had 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes off the bench. He averaged 19.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists against the Celtics in the 2020 playoffs.
Bam Adebayo's elite defense was on display as he accounted for four of Miami's 12 blocks. He also contributed 10 points and four boards.
Tatum and Brown had 29 and 24 points, respectively. The Celtics usually will take those numbers from their star duo, but they were far too inconsistent. Both players went scoreless in the dismal third quarter and combined for nine of the team's 16 turnovers. They shot a combined 17-for-38 from the floor.
Free throws aren't free
The Celtics need to be better from the free-throw line to have a chance in this series, especially if Butler is going to be this much of a problem from the free-throw line going forward.
Boston was 24-for-32 (75 percent) from the charity stripe in Game 1. That won't cut it. Brown was the primary culprit, going 6-for-10 from the line. Tatum also missed two of his nine free throws. Those are the guys the Celtics need to come through in those situations.
Miami was 30-for-34 (88.2 percent) from the free-throw line. That discrepancy -- along with that awful third quarter -- was the difference.
The full Robert Williams experience
Robert Williams was back in the Celtics' starting lineup for the first time since Game 3 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. The big man missed Games 4-6 due to soreness in his surgically-repaired left knee and while he was listed as available for Game 7, he didn't log any minutes.
Williams showed no signs of rust in Tuesday night's Game 1 vs. Miami. He was arguably the Celtics' most impactful player on both ends of the floor with 18 points (6-8 FG), nine rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes. Most importantly, he (mostly) looked the healthiest he's been since he tore his meniscus, swatting away shots and throwing down emphatic lobs as he did all season long.
Time Lord's performance is an encouraging sign, and it'll only get better for Boston once Al Horford is added back into the equation. Williams exited the game in the fourth quarter with a cramped calf, but head coach Ime Udoka said after the game it isn't anything worth worrying about.