An extremely lopsided third quarter was the difference in a double-digit comeback from the Miami Heat, as they claimed a 118-107 Game 1 win in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics started off the third quarter by surrendering a 22-2 run after leading by as many as 13 points in the first half. Jayson Tatum turned the ball over six times in the third quarter with seven overall. The third quarter which Miami won by 25 points put the Celtics in too deep a hole to climb out of, as Jimmy Butler out-dueled Tatum in the fourth quarter, en route to a 41-point performance.
Hours before tip, news broke that Al Horford had entered the league’s health and safety protocols and Marcus Smart was also out with a sprained foot.
The starting lineup of Derrick White, Brown, Tatum, Grant Williams and Robert Williams started off on a 7-0 run to open up Game 1 in Miami. Grant Williams continued to shoot like it was still Game 7 against the Bucks, and the Celtics’ frenetic energy on defense forced Miami to start 0/7 from the floor.
Boston’s defense continued to give Miami fits to start the first quarter. The Celtics led 14-6 after five minutes elapsed, Miami shot 3/10 from the floor, 0/3 from three and turned the ball over three times.
Robert Williams, in his return to action, provided his signature brand of hustle ball early, scoring eight with two offensive rebounds. Williams also had a block early.
Despite the early lead, the Heat quickly came back from a nine-point lead in minutes, attacking in transition after Boston misses and tied the game at 21. After a Tatum turnover led to a transition dunk, Miami took its first lead at 23-21 with 2:30 to go in the first.
Tatum scored four straight to take a two-point lead right back. Tatum had 10 in the first quarter to go along with three rebounds. After a Payton Pritchard three, Boston led 28-25 after one.
Aaron Nesmith checked in to start the second quarter after seeing just seven minutes total in the playoffs so far. Immediately Nesmith made a highlight block in transition then saved a possession with an offensive rebound that lead to two points.
Robert Williams continued to batter the Heat defense, finishing on consecutive lobs that shook the stanchion. Midway through the second, the Celtics led 43-32.
THROW IT DOWN ROB pic.twitter.com/BH0oMgxjJY— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 18, 2022
Pritchard had eight points on 3/4 shooting as the Celtics led by 11. He had 10 at halftime. Boston started 7-11 from the floor to start the second quarter, Miami started 2-10.
Up 55-43, the Celtics had 40 points in the paint and 17 assists. Miami did keep pace despite the fast and furious Celtic scoring. Tyler Herro was also scoring with ease, reaching 15 points on 7/13 shooting (54%).
Boston kept up the scoring to close out the second. Without two starters, the Celtics led 62-54 at halftime. Tatum tied a playoff career-high in scoring for one half, putting up 21 points on 9/14 shooting. He also had five assists and four rebounds.
Celtics lead 62-54 at the half— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 18, 2022
Tatum - 21/4/5
Rob - 12 points
Pritchard - 10 points
Celtics - 59.1% FGs
Celtics - 5-14 threes
Celtics - 7 TOs
Celtics - 42 PITP
Herro - 15 points
Butler - 14 points
Adebayo - 6 points
Heat - 48.8% FGs
Heat - 4-14 threes
Heat - 7 TOs
The Heat battled back to cut the lead to one to start the third quarter. Miami was attacking inside and hustling for offensive rebounds. After Gabe Vincent hit a deep three, Butler put in a layup on an offensive rebound to give Miami a 64-63 lead.
The Heat continued to stonewall Boston as the third quarter progressed. The Celtics shot 0-6 from the floor and turned the ball over before head coach Ime Udoka called a timeout down 72-64. Miami started the third on a 20-2 run through six minutes.
Back-to-back turnovers in the backcourt gave Butler back-to-back easy layups as Miami stretched its lead to 12.
But, the Celtics answered with a nine-point run. Daniel Theis got a second-chance layup to go after playing solid defense on Herro the possession before. After the lead was cut to one, Miami kept pushing, reclaiming an 11-point lead at 87-76. Vincent hit consecutive jumpers for five straight as the Heat crowd detonated.
Nesmith blocked a transition layup, but then fell victim to a Butler pump fake to give Miami two more points before the fourth began. The Heat led 93-76 entering the fourth. The +25 point differential was the greatest in one playoff quarter in the Miami Heat’s history.
Still down 17, a missed three from Pritchard put the Celtics 0/10 from deep in the second half. Next time down the floor, he hit one to end the drought. Boston chipped away at the lead gradually, closing the gap to 10 with eight minutes to play. Butler had 31 for his sixth 30-point game of the playoffs.
Both teams traded threes as the Heat maintained a 12-point lead. On a Bam Adebayo drive, Robert Williams came up limping with a calf cramp and was subbed out for Theis.
Every time the Celtics brought the lead down to around 10, the Heat called timeout and responded well. The Celtics were down too much with too little time as Miami continued to find free throws and keep Boston at bay.
Pritchard finished with 18 points, tied with Robert Williams for third on the team. Tatum put up 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Butler poured in 41 points.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics Game 1 loss, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss how the Celtics can respond in Game 2.