Jayson Tatum had plenty of runway as he soared in for what he was hoping would be a game-tying dunk in overtime.
But Tatum’s aerial plans were soon grounded by a clutch block by Miami’s Bam Adebayo that would be the difference in Boston’s 117-114 loss to the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
This first game lived up to all the hype.
There were big shots, clutch plays made by players on both teams with contributions from both benches down the stretch.
And when the game was on the line, we saw the one thing everyone anticipated seeing - elite defense which was punctuated by Adebayo’s block.
“That’s why he’s the heart and soul of our team,” Miami’s Jimmy Butler told ESPN’s Malika Andrews following the win.
After Adebayo’s block, which was soon followed by him making one of two free throws with 2.5 seconds left, the Celtics had one last shot at forcing a second overtime session.
A deep pass to Tatum was secured as he stumbled to the ground. He quickly rose to his feet and made a desperation heave that rimmed in and out as time expired.
This game had all the makings of a down-to-the-wire finish even though Boston could not have gotten off to a better start to the game.
Boston jumped on the Heat with some suffocating defense from the game’s outset, leading to them scoring the game’s first eight points, which would be the difference in the first quarter which ended with Boston on top 26-18.
Miami was much better in the second, reminding us all just how potent it has been this season and in the Orlando Bubble when it comes to 3-point shooting.
The Heat was a blistering 6-for-8 on 3’s in the second quarter, which was a major factor in the score being tied at 55.
Boston regained control in the third quarter, which ended on a 13-2 Celtics spurt which put them on top, 83-71, going into the fourth.
TURNING POINT: Trailing 116-114 in overtime, Jayson Tatum beat Jimmy Butler off the dribble and soared into the lane for a potential game-tying dunk only for Miami’s Bam Adebayo to meet him at the rim and block the shot.
Jayson Tatum: For most of the night, there was no one better in this game than Tatum. He got buckets, rebounds, got his teammates involved and defended at a very high level. By the time the final tally was made, Tatum had delivered yet another gem of a performance with 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Jimmy Butler: He was so-so most of the game but as always, Butler stepped up and delivered when the game was on the line. He would finish with 20 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Goran Dragic: Jimmy Butler came through in the clutch, but keeping the Heat afloat for most of Game 1 was Dragic. He led Miami with 29 points and seven rebounds along with four assists.
Jae Crowder: There were some big shots in the first half that Crowder was able to knock down for Miami as he finished with 22 points. But the former Celtics biggest contribution of the night came in the fourth quarter when he was switched out defensively on Kemba Walker and forced a 24-second violation against Walker and the Celtics. On the ensuing possession, Jimmy Butler hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Marcus Smart: Boston’s control in the third quarter was fueled in large part by the play of Smart, who scored 10 of his 26 points in the third. He made his share of big plays defensively which included drawing a foul prior to the ball being in-bounded which led to Jayson Tatum making a free that tied the game up at 106 for what turned out to be the last point in regulation.
Brad Wanamaker: As Kemba Walker continues to struggle offensively, Wanamaker’s scoring was clutch for Boston as the Celtics looked to try and soften the blow of not having Walker’s usual 20-plus points. In addition to scoring 11 points off the bench - that’s more than double what he has averaged in the playoffs - Wanamaker also dished out six assists along with five steals.
Kemba Walker: The struggles we saw near the end of the Toronto series are still very much alive for Walker, who had another poor playoff showing. Walker scored 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting. Beyond the struggling woes, Walker had his problems defensively as well with the Miami Heat continuing a trend we have seen many have success of late with and that’s targeting Walker on defense.