The Boston Celtics dropped Game 1 to the Miami Heat in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, and it didn’t deter them from winning the series.
Boston is in the same hole in the rematch and looks to bounce back and even the best-of-seven set when it hosts the eighth-seeded Heat in Game 2 on Friday night.
The second-seeded Celtics outplayed Miami in the first half, but the Heat seized control with a dominating 46-25 edge in the third quarter en route to posting a 123-116 victory on Wednesday.
Boston led by 13 late in the second quarter prior to the epic collapse in which it allowed the Heat to make 17 of 26 shots (65.4 percent) in the third quarter.
“We’re too far in to hang our heads. We’re too far in to look back and be like, ‘The series is over,'” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “It’s one game. So we’ve just got to get ready to play the next one.
“Got a great opportunity the next game on Friday to come out and play and lift our intensity. I’m looking forward to it.”
Jayson Tatum led Boston with 30 points in Game 1 but he disappeared in the fourth quarter. Tatum didn’t attempt a single field-goal attempt in the period while committing three of his four turnovers. Brown had 22 points and nine rebounds on the night.
The best player on the floor in Game 1 was Miami’s Jimmy Butler, who recorded 35 points, seven assists, six steals and five rebounds.
Butler has five 30-point efforts this postseason and is averaging 31.5 points in 11 games.
“He’s one of the best players in the world for a reason,” Heat guard Kyle Lowry said. “It’s just a joy to watch it. For a guy that wants it so bad and works so hard at his craft, it’s important to enjoy his success. He gives us all the confidence to be successful and be aggressive and be assertive.”
The Heat swiped homecourt advantage with the Game 1 win, and multiple players made reference to their teammates having chips on their shoulders.
Miami had to go the play-in route to even make the playoffs before stunning the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round and beating the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals.
“I would say that everybody counted us out from the beginning [and that] was kind of what builds that chip,” said Heat center Bam Adebayo, who had 20 points and eight rebounds on Wednesday. “But also the adversity that we’ve been through the whole season, the ups and downs, the games we should have won but didn’t win. Going to the locker room and trying to figure it out, rewrite whatever we did wrong, and going through that put us in this position.
“Now I feel like we are one of the best teams in the league, because adversity built this.”
The Celtics are now the team feeling the pressure as they don’t want to fall behind 0-2 with Games 3 and 4 in Miami.
Boston coach Joe Mazzulla bristled multiple times after Game 1 when it was suggested his team wasn’t prepared to play. Mazzulla pointed out the Celtics “won three out of the four quarters.”
Of course, they were missing in action in the one that decided the contest.
“We got away from who we are in the third quarter,” Mazzulla said. “Whether it’s home or away, it’s the details, it’s the margins, it’s the little things.”
Meanwhile, the Heat will be hunting for another victory. In last season’s Game 2, Boston pummeled Miami 127-102 to even the series.
“At the end of the day we are the 8 seed, so we are on the road,” Lowry said. “We’ve got to go out there and try to win games on the road. We don’t have the advantage of having four games at home.”
–Field Level Media
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