Jimmy Butler scored 41 points, and the Miami Heat turned the tide with a huge third quarter on the road to victory over the Boston Celtics with a small 118-107 in the first game of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.
Tyler Era scored 18 and Gabe Vincent added 17 for the Heat, who beat Boston 39-14 in the third quarter. Butler was 17 only in the third, beating the Celtics in those 12 minutes.
Max Strus scored 11 and Bam Adebayo added 10 behind Miami.
Jason Tatum scored 29 points in the Celtics, which were without starting Marcus Smart (legs) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols). Jaylen Brown added 24 for Boston, receiving 18 each from Robert Williams III and Peyton Pritchard.
Game 2 – Thursday.
In the first half, “Boston” led with a score of 13, and at the break led with a score of 62-54. Everything Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said during the break obviously worked.
Series 22-2 – this is how Miami started the second half, the series was interrupted by interceptions that led to baskets in three consecutive possessions. The Shake had one, the next two Butler advanced to 76-64, and the Heat stopped.
The advantage reached 96-76 when Era had a foul in a three-point attempt and executed all three penalties early in the fourth.
Boston was left to flee; a 10-0 surge cut the deficit in half, and a three-point Tatum made the game with nine points – the outcome is still in doubt – from 7:35 to the end.
But the heat had the answer. PJ Tucker responded to Tatum’s threesome with one of his own. Brown then connected from the depths to regain Boston within one figure, only to be answered by a trio from Strus.
Some of the plans the parties had for Game 1 were rejected about three and a half hours before playing time when the Celtics revealed that Smart and Horford would not play. Smart’s absence was quite expected due to a mid-foot sprain he received in the 7th game of the Eastern Semifinals against Milwaukee on Sunday.
However, Horford’s absence came as a surprise.
He joined the health and safety protocols of the league on Tuesday afternoon, which excluded him from Game 1 and could possibly prevent him from having more games in the future. And it is unclear whether other Celtics may need testing.
“Honestly, I’m not sure yet,” Celtics coach Udoka said before the game.