Sports

Celtics reply to at least one unhealthy quarter with full Heat beatdown


You would have thought the Miami Heat’s 22-2 run to start out the third quarter towards the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals lasted two years, given the general public response to the collection opener.

Popular opinion figured these six minutes for an extension of the 2020 convention finals, as if the Celtics had been the identical staff the Heat bullied within the bubble. As if that they had not swept Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets and eradicated Giannis Antetokounmpo’s defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in a Game 7. As in the event that they weren’t lacking Marcus Smart and Al Horford, the brawn and brains behind the NBA’s finest protection.

Even Heat star Jimmy Butler mentioned after Game 1, “I expect us to do that from every quarter from here on out,” as if Celtics counterparts Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown would overlook how you can play basketball once more.

Only, Smart and Horford returned to smother the Heat defensively, Tatum and Brown rediscovered their stardom, and Boston reminded everybody to not make sweeping assumptions after one unhealthy quarter in Game 1 of a best-of-seven collection, dominating Miami for all 4 quarters of a 127-102 victory in Game 2.

“Wasn’t surprising to see how well we guarded with our guys back,” mentioned Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

The Celtics turned an early 10-point deficit on Thursday into an 11-point lead by the top of the primary quarter. They pushed the margin to 70-45 at halftime and led by as many as 34 factors within the second half. Miami’s starters didn’t see the courtroom within the fourth quarter, prioritizing relaxation for a street Game 3 in one other 48 hours.

“They came out and hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t know how to respond,” mentioned Miami’s Bam Adebayo.

Lost was the dialogue of Butler as “a top-five NBA participant as quickly because the postseason begins,” even when he ended the night with 29 factors, the majority of which got here with the result already settled. Nobody was singing Butler’s praises when he shot 29.7% and the Bucks swept his Heat within the first spherical final season. His 41 factors and 17 free throws in Game 1 on Tuesday had been as exceptional as they had been unsustainable.

Nowhere to be heard was speak of Adebayo’s stranglehold on the Celtics, stemming from his game-winning block of Tatum in Game 1 of the 2020 East finals and resurfacing with his wedgie block of Brown throughout the third-quarter run in Game 1 of this collection. Boston acquired no matter it needed offensively in Game 2. Tatum and Brown mixed for 51 factors on 30 pictures to steer six Celtics in double figures on a 51% capturing evening.

Things change 12 months to 12 months, recreation to recreation, even quarter to quarter within the NBA.

The healthy return of Al Horford and Marcus Smart propelled the Boston Celtics to a dominating Game 2 victory in the Eastern Conference finals. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The wholesome return of Al Horford and Marcus Smart propelled the Boston Celtics to a dominating Game 2 victory within the Eastern Conference finals. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Celtics have now outscored the Heat by 34 factors outdoors the six minutes to start out the third quarter in Game 1. They are scoring 121.2 factors per 100 possessions towards Miami via two video games, and their wholesome protection simply left us to surprise how the Heat may manufacture factors past Butler’s aggression.

“It was evident after Game 1, that third quarter, 39-14, eight of our 16 turnovers, them getting a lot of offensive rebounds and Butler getting to the free-throw line,” Udoka mentioned of his staff’s response in Game 2. “It was pretty evident that they were the more physical, aggressive team, and we said, ‘Let’s look at the three quarters and be optimistic about what we did there.’ If a team is just going to come out and out-hustle you … we could match that intensity. We pride ourselves on being one of the tougher teams, so we knew if we matched that we’d be in good shape tonight. Not much needed to be said. Everybody saw it.”

We needs to be cautious about making snap judgments the opposite manner after Game 2. The collection remains to be tied, and whereas Boston stole home-court benefit on Thursday, Miami would host Game 7 if the collection will get that far.

In totality via two video games, the Celtics have regarded just like the staff that has been the NBA’s finest for six months now. Their wholesome rotation misplaced as soon as within the second half of the common season — by a single possession — and Derrick White missed Game 2 in Miami for the delivery of his first baby. They have outscored opponents by 13.5 factors per 100 possessions since Jan. 6. The hole between their top-rated protection and Miami’s second-rated outfit is the distinction between the Heat and the Sixteenth-rated protection.

“That’s what our team’s about,” mentioned Horford. “We’ve been talking about this since January, when we really started getting at it and kind of creating that identity and how we wanted to play. That’s who we’ve been.”

We know for sure the Celtics are more durable than they had been two years in the past. They at the moment are 4-0 after their playoff losses, successful these video games by a mixed 69 factors. They held Durant 13% beneath his regular-season capturing share within the first spherical and Antetokounmpo 10% beneath his within the second. It is difficult to think about Butler sustaining his 63% clip via two video games, and if he does, it nonetheless may not be sufficient.

“There are really good players and really talented teams in the NBA, but I think the sign of a good team is how you respond after losses, especially tough ones,” mentioned Tatum. “It just kind of shows the character of the group. We’ve done a really good job most of the year responding after tough losses and situations.”

The well being that appeared like an issue for the Celtics in Game 1, when Smart was nursing a sprained foot and Horford was caught in COVID-19 protocols, is now a severe situation for the Heat. Kyle Lowry’s hamstring has sidelined him for eight video games within the playoffs, and P.J. Tucker left Thursday’s loss with a knee harm.

The considerations in regards to the Heat getting into the convention finals — Tyler Herro’s protection and the flexibility of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin to carry out on this stage — nonetheless linger because the collection heads to Boston. They will want much more from Butler’s supporting solid in the event that they wish to keep away from returning to Miami down 3-1.

Then once more, we needs to be cautious of deciding a collection after one blowout, whether or not in a single quarter or one recreation.

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Ben Rohrbach is a employees author for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or comply with him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach




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