The last time we were in Miami, Jimmy Butler’s potential go-ahead three clanked the front rim and Boston narrowly escaped a historic collapse, reaching the finals for the first time in a decade. In tonight’s game with significantly lower stakes, the Celtics again emerged victorious, leading for most of the game and winning by 7.
After a clunky 1-for-6 start, the Celtics ended the quarter scoring on their final six possessions and led 30-22 after 12 minutes. Derrick White scored 10, Jaylen Brown added 9, and the team shot 6 free throws while not allowing Miami to get to the line. Noah Vonleh, looking like a steady rotation player, ended the period with this emphatic dunk after tracking down a loose ball and spinning past his defender.
Boston’s offense stayed potent, hitting four 3’s over the first six minutes of the second quarter. They maintained a comfortable lead but never got it beyond 11. Tyler Herro, fresh off signing a 4-year $130 million contract, kept Miami in the game, hitting a floater at the 2:45 mark that cut the lead to 55-50 en route to 15 first half points. The Celtics led 59-51 after 24 minutes.
The Celtics hit nine first half 3’s, tallied 7 blocks, and everyone who played scored. Bam Adebayo shot 6/7 from the field after picking up two early fouls. The marquee players Jimmy Butler (6 points 3/7 shooting) and Jayson Tatum (11 points 4/10 shooting) both played lackluster first halves.
The beginning of the second half was — how shall I put it — a snooze fest. There was no energy in the building and seemingly a foul on every possession. Miami got to the bonus by the 8:11 mark as White picked up his fourth foul. Kyle Lowry, who struggled in their opener, hit a deep three at the 7:00 mark that cut the lead to two, then a Cody Martin steal led to a loud transition dunk by Bam, and the game was tied at 69.
The Celtics reclaimed the lead after Tatum first hit a tough floater over Martin’s stout defense, then drilled a step-back three that led to a Heat timeout. With Sam Hauser in the game, Miami tried to attack him in the pick and roll on multiple possessions, but he held his own. Grant Williams hit two threes in the final minute, Tatum had an outstanding block on a driving Herro, and Boston led 89-77 entering the final frame.
Both teams struggled to open the fourth quarter, but Boston took a 96-84 lead after Hauser splashed a corner three in transition. After a Miami timeout, Jaylen hit this ridiculous fadeaway on Adebayo:
But as we know from last season’s conference finals, the pesky Heat don’t go down easily, and they went on a 9-0 run as Jaylen picked up his fifth foul with 5:44 remaining. Tatum ended the scoring drought after getting his own offensive rebound and converting on the second layup attempt. Coach Mazzulla smartly used Tatum as an on-ball screener so he could slip past the over-aggressive Miami defense.
With Brown still on the Bench, Tatum hit Gabe Vincent with a behind-the-back dribble move and connected on the 10-foot floater, giving Boston a nine point lead. Marcus Smart was quiet all night, but he found a driving lane and connected on the layup at the 1:22 mark. The “let’s go, Celtics” chants took over the FTX arena, and the Celtics won the game 111-104.
Tatum finished with 29 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Brown had 28 points on 12/18 shooting and added 2 steals and 2 blocks. Grant Williams was +15 in 25 minutes, scoring 10 points on 4/6 shooting while adding adding 7 boards and 2 blocks. The Celtics shot 42 percent from three and connected on all 15 of their free throws, as Miami starts the season 0-2. The Celtics will make a short trip to play the exciting young Orlando Magic tomorrow night at 7:00.