Heat 106 – Celtics 101 (Miami leads series 2-0)
Jimmy Butler guided the Heat to their second straight win over the Celtics in Game 2 on Thursday, tallying 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals and one turnover across 36 minutes. It wasn’t his most efficient performance, as he went just 4-of-11 from the field (6-of-6 from the line), but his defense was game-altering and he made some huge plays on that end of the floor in crunch time.
The Heat again started slow and dug themselves into an early hole with some sloppy first-half play, but they flipped the script after halftime and completely shut the Celtics down through a dominate third quarter, outscoring Boston 37-17.
“We like to make it hard on ourselves,” Butler quipped after the game. “We like being down double digits and being the comeback kids.”
Bam Adebayo, who had just four points on 2-of-6 shooting through the first half of action, played a key role in the third-quarter drubbing – as he proceeded to crush the Celtics in the pick-and-roll and scored 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in his nine-minute stint. He finished with 21 points (10-of-16 FG, 1-of-2 FT), 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two turnovers in 35 minutes, and helped Miami tie a franchise record by pulling off a playoff win after trailing by 17.
Duncan Robinson bounced back from Game 1’s 2-of-7 shooting performance, going 6-of-12 from distance on his way to 18 points, two rebounds, four assists, one block and zero turnovers in 32 minutes; while Goran Dragic kept his foot on the gas pedal with 25 points (10-of-19 FG, 2-of-2 FT), three triples, five dimes, three boards and two turnovers in 34 minutes.
The Heat have now opened the postseason 10-1 for just the second time in franchise history, with the last time they accomplished that feat coming in 2005. That year, a spry, 23-year-old Dwyane Wade and the 32-year-old Shaquille O’Neal went on to lose a tough seven-game series against the title defending Pistons. However, the Heat are 16-0 in franchise history when leading by 2-0 to open a series, including 2-0 this postseason, so this time it’s quite possible we’ll see a more favorable result for Miami.
As for the Celtics, they’re 2-15 when trailing by 2-0 to start a series, and they should be nervous because this Heat team looks like giant killers. The problem for Boston is that they tend to go through these prolonged scoring droughts, and after sacrificing sizable leads in back-to-back games, there’s trouble brewing in the locker room.
According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, Marcus Smart and others could be heard screaming at each other in the locker room after the game, and the scene ended with Smart storming out as he exclaimed: “y’all on that bullsh*t!” Per Washburn, who has covered the Celtics for many years, it was one of the more rancorous locker room arguments he had ever heard. Perhaps the Celtics watched too many Clipper games.
Smart wasn’t great himself, going 5-of-13 from the field for 14 points, two 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and an unfortunate four turnovers in 38 minutes.
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Kemba Walker finally busted out of his shooting funk, scoring a team-high 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting to go with four triples, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block over 34 minutes, but he also committed a team-high five turnovers and he lost some of his steam after halftime.
While Bam was ripping Boston apart through the third quarter, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Walker all combined for 10 points on just 2-of-7 shooting. Tatum finished with 21 points (6-of-12 FG, 9-of-11 FT), five rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and five turnovers in 42 minutes; while Brown had 21 points (8-of-14 FG, 3-of-4 FT), six rebounds, two assists and one turnover in 39 minutes.
Brown bounced back from a poor Game 1 performance and he came through with some clutch buckets down the stretch to give the Celtics a chance, but despite leading by 94-89 with a little over four minutes left, Boston squandered their chances as their offense fell apart.
Tatum has been one of my favorite stories this season, but the 22-year-old still needs to grow into a more assertive role as the face of this franchise. Attempting zero shots in crunch time while holding onto a narrow lead is simply unacceptable for a player of Tatum’s caliber, so he needs to do a better job of demanding the rock and stop letting Jimmy bully him.
Game 3 tips off at 8:30 pm ET on Saturday, and that’s looking like a near must-win game for Boston, as no team in NBA history has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit. However, with Miami looking like world destroyers, I might take advantage of the fact that the oddsmakers still see them as underdogs in this series. As I’m writing this, PointsBet has the Miami money line at +125.