Result Heat vs. Celtics, takeaways: Jimmy Butler loses 41 points as Miami wins Game 1


Result Heat vs. Celtics, takeaways: Jimmy Butler loses 41 points as Miami wins Game 1

The Miami Heat clinched a 118-107 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night. It was a two-half story for the Heat, who came alive in the third quarter to charge back from an eight-point halftime deficit and dominate the Celtics for the rest of the game. Jimmy Butler had 41 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the win while Tyler Herro added 18 points off the bench for the Heat.

Miami ramped up the pressure on the defense in the second half, making life difficult for Jayson Tatum and Boston. Tatum finished the game with 29 points (21 in the first half), while Jaylen Brown added 24 points. Boston has certainly been missing Marcus Smart (missing with a foot injury) and Al Horford (missing from COVID health and safety protocols) from both ends of the floor, and while Horford could miss Game 2 in the league’s protocols, there is optimism that Smart is for Game could return 2 from this right foot sprain.

Here are three takeaways from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and the Celtics.

1. Jimmy has buckets

Butler was unstoppable throughout the game, but he really came alive in the second half as he accumulated 27 of his 41 points that night. He did much of his damage on the free throw line, where he racked up 17 points as he excelled at baiting multiple defenders with his pump fake to get a foul call. But it wasn’t just Butler’s strike that made all the difference for the Heat, he also did it with his build-up play, rebounds and perhaps most importantly his defense.

Butler ended the game with four steals, three of which came in the third quarter. There was a point in that quarter where Butler got away with back-to-back steals that led to easy fast-break buckets, extending Miami’s lead and leaving the Celtics shocked after an excellent first-half performance. Butler also finished with three blocks, the last of which felt like a statement as he stuffed Tatum with a 3-point corner try in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Earlier, Butler sunk a middle-distance jumper over Celtics guard Payton Pritchard while staring him down while running back to the defense as if to say, “You can’t guard me.” Butler is right Pritchard and everyone else Boston has tried Holding on to him failed to contain him, resulting in an explosive performance from the Heat forward, who has now scored 40 or more points three times in this playoff.

2. Boston collapsed in the third quarter

Things really went downhill for the Celtics in the third quarter when they were beaten 39-14 at halftime after 24 minutes after leading by eight points. Boston dominated the game for two quarters as Tatum worked to 21 points in the first half, the Celtics scored 42 points in the paint and amassed 17 assists, showing great ball movement early in the game. But all that first-half success flew out the window, and the Heat not only closed the gap in the third quarter, they rolled it fully under steam and carved out a 20-point lead.

Credit Miami’s defense as the Heat smothered Tatum and virtually shut down Boston’s offense once it passed halfway down the court, but some of that also had to do with mental blunders by the Celtics. Tatum had six turnovers in the third quarter as he strayed from what worked for him in the first half and began relying on foul chasing to get his points. It resulted in just five points for the superstar forward, who struggled to find his shot again after a hot start to the game.

But the blame for that third-quarter performance can’t be placed entirely on Tatum’s shoulders. For three quarters of the game, Brown was essentially a non-factor, and while he ended the night with 24 points, most of that production came in the fourth quarter when the Heat were already comfortably ahead.

The Celtics can’t afford to bring Brown to life when the game is practically out of reach, especially when the team has lost two starters in Smart and Horford. While Brown accumulated 15 points in the fourth quarter to stage a comeback attempt, it was too little too late for his exploits. Boston needed that production in the third quarter when Tatum was swamped and no one else could score. If Brown had a bigger third quarter than just the two points and 0 for 4 from the field he produced, Boston might not dig into a 20-point deficit and would have had a real chance by the end of the game.

3. Vincent performed in Lowry’s absence

One of the key storylines for the pre-Game 1 Heat was how this team would handle playing against a defense like the Celtics without their starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who is struggling with a hamstring injury. While Miami had gone 6-0 in the previous games that Lowry was in the playoffs, the team still had an opponent as dominant and versatile as the Celtics.

Of course, that wasn’t a huge problem as Gabe Vincent put on an impressive performance, finishing the game with 17 points, three assists, three blocks and two rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from deep. His performance in the third quarter was one of the reasons The Heat managed to build such a large lead as he accumulated 10 points in the third quarter while playing every 12 minutes.

It’s not entirely surprising that Vincent is making an impression for the Heat given he showed some flashes of that in the second round against the 76ers, but I don’t think many predicted he would be the second-best scorer among the starters in the Heat today Night. It’s unclear when Lowry will be back for The Heat this series, but in the meantime Vincent has shown he can fill in for him when needed.

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