Here's What Stood Out in Celtics' Game 1 Loss: Heat's Third-Quarter Haymaker Propels Them to 1-0 Lead
The third quarter of Game 7 against the Sixers was the Celtics' best period this season. But this group's consistently looked less sharp coming out of halftime.
On Wednesday night at TD Garden, it cost them the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston entered the second half with a 66-57 advantage, thanks to relentlessly attacking downhill, slicing through the Heat's defense, and producing 40 points in the paint to the visitors' 16.
Miami's slow offensive operation also made it easier to get stops, helping the hosts play with pace.
But in the second half, the Heat, as they tend to do, flipped the switch, making the necessary adjustments and playing with more physicality and greater focus.
With the Celtics doing the opposite, the Heat outscored them 46-25 in the third frame. That offset Boston putting more points on the board in the other three quarters.
Now for a deep dive into what stood out as Jimmy Butler, who finished with a game-high 35 points, led Miami to a series-opening win in this Eastern Conference Finals rematch.
1. Boston did an excellent job attacking the gaps in Miami's defense early in Wednesday's matchup,
creating rim pressure that pulled Bam Adebayo off Robert Williams, leading to the latter scoring six of the hosts' first eight points and the Celtics' first ten points coming in the paint.
Jimmy Butler immediately made his presence felt, leading all scorers with 12 points in the first frame.
He routinely targeted the Time Lord, getting Boston's big man switched onto him, then utilizing the space Williams gave him to generate mid-range jumpers.
Butler also found success against Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon as point-of-attack defenders and made the defending Eastern Conference champions pay for doubling him, finding Caleb Martin for an open corner three.