Friday’s Game 2 showdown wasn’t technically a must-win for the Celtics, but after Wednesday’s Game 1 debacle, this one had a must-win feel.
The Celtics played with desperation and fire in flashes, but the Heat withstood every surge and delivered another gut-punch in the final minutes to secure a stunning and silencing 111-105 win at TD Garden.
Jimmy Butler – without question the baddest dude in the NBA at the moment – scored 27 points, Caleb Martin added 25 off the bench and Bam Adebayo added 22 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. Jayson Tatum paced the Celtics with 34, 13 and 8, but it wasn’t enough.
Boston heads to Miami down 0-2 and in danger of not ever returning home. Game 3 is set for Sunday at 8:30 p.m.
Both teams showed flashes early Friday, yet neither side managed to pull away due to the scrappiness and relentlessness of the other.
Ball movement ✅— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 20, 2023
BIG buckets ✅ pic.twitter.com/6YdMsvqxeM
The Celtics made a conscious effort to post up their guards in the opening minutes, but it didn’t necessarily work as well as they might have hoped. Miami jumped out to a 22-14 edge, as Max Strus got loose early and the Heat dominated the glass.
Boston responded with a convincing and necessary 21-2 run, taking a 25-24 edge through the 1st and extending the margin to 33-24 early in the second. Grant Williams, who didn’t see any action in Game 1, provided a lift off the bench, consistently making winning hustle plays and finding open shooters.
Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White connected from 3, Robert Williams was the glue and Jayson Tatum continued to cook. The Heat, as they tend to do, found a way to respond. Martin was the catalyst, and Butler and Duncan Robinson contributed as well.
Derrick White is red hot from three!! pic.twitter.com/nWYSYVUcSv— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 20, 2023
Joe Mazzulla called timeout after a 14-2 Miami run (yes, it really happened) that tied it at 42 midway through the second. The rest of the half was relatively even, and the Heat took a 54-50 edge into the third.
Tatum was the best player on the floor, and he and Martin each had 14 at the break to lead the way. Jaylen Brown was minus-20, and Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart shot a combined 5-for-19 (26 percent). As a team, Boston hit just 30 percent of its 3-pointers (6-for-20). On the flip side, Adebayo was 2-for-9 from the field and Miami shot 41.7 percent from the field.
To put it simply, the half could have been better and could have been worse for the Celtics. All things considered, the Celtics were in a fine spot – assuming they didn’t give up 46 points in the third quarter again.
This time, Boston allowed just 21 points. White started the quarter over Robert Williams, and Brown found a rhythm after his uncharacteristically sluggish start. Tatum poured in 15 points in the third quarter alone, and the Celtics returned to form on both ends.
THAT'S A JAYSON TATUM SHOT! pic.twitter.com/jqYiHKA3DA— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 20, 2023
But Miami continued to battle, as Butler skillfully picked his spots and Robinson sizzled from the perimeter. Grant Williams canned a big 3, finished inside with his left hand, then dunked off a feed from Tatum, giving Boston a 100-96 edge with 3:52 remaining.
Butler then fueled a 9-0 run, as Miami deflated the Garden crowd and took a 105-100 edge with less than a minute remaining. Tatum hit three free throws to slice it to two, then Gabe Vincent buried a deep two to give the Heat a 107-103 edge with 35.1 left.
The Celtics ran out of time and suffered what could be one of their most consequential losses of the Tatum-Brown era if they don’t get their act together in Miami.
Maybe the Taylor Swift concert was the move after all.