The Hit has won Game 1 for a number of reasons, but one more important than the rest: they hired Jimmy Butler, who scored 41 points and tried to make 18 free throws against a Celtic defense that required a crucial minute from Payton Pritchard and Daniel This’s because Marcus Smart and Al Harford did not play. Boston looked predictably weak in the fourth quarter as Butler called Pritchard to the ball screen one after another, a deliberate tactic that consistently created a quality look.
Heat Use Speed to Slow Down Celtics
For one night, that strategy was a solution. But, with Smart and Harford finally recovering from a sprained ankle and health and safety protocol, Miami won’t be able to eat it with all the series. Boston will recover and adjust its coverage. (Butler can still draw fouls and hit competitive jump shots because great offensive players do, but they won’t get in his way by repeatedly asking the smart guy to pick them up.)
Heat vs Celtics last game
The series opener was also not defined by that action; Even in the middle of his own systematic attack, Butler made a curious decision with a 13-point lead and had about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Jalen Brown misses a putback dunk try that splits Bam Adebayo to the floor, Max Strauss grabs the rebound and quickly throws it at Butler, who quickly climbs to the floor with a couple of backpedaling Celtics and shot seconds to 19 seconds.
Considering the time, the score, how balanced the floor was, and Butler’s success against Pritchard, it’s a bit of a rush. At the same time, almost every missed shot in Game 1 was used to slingshot another opportunity. Throughout the night, after each rebound and live-ball turnover, both teams have adopted the same approach: run.
heat vs Celtics score
“We want to live like that,” Adebayo said after the game. “The coach doesn’t want us to play.”
This is not some unique idea. It’s easy to score early on the shot clock against an opponent who has time to organize. In this series, however, offensive game planners will be particularly desperate to avoid working against a set of defenses. The Hit and Celtics have reached the conference finals with two of the toughest half-court groups of the season. Boston finished first and Miami finished fifth.
Related: There have been only three games throughout the season where Boston had a higher transition frequency than Tuesday night. At one time their transition frequency was higher than in the live rebound in Game 3 of the second round. The old adage that games have to slow down playoffs in the opener of this series was false. The Celtics relentlessly stepped up whenever Miami missed a shot. They quickly dribble into the paint, run the drag screen and quickly take three.
Miami heat vs Boston Celtics
The heat was no different. Only 75.2% of their assets came to the half-court, the seventh-lowest number of their season, and their transition frequency (36.7%) at the live rebound was only once at the top of these playoffs.
“You two have really good defenses and you’re looking for any kind of advantage in the margins,” Eric Spoelstra said after the game. “No matter what we say, I guarantee they will say it. And they certainly did it with us in the first half. (In the first two quarters, Boston added 17.9 points per 100 assets to their offense in the transition. They ended up at + 12.2, which was their second-highest mark of the season.)
Celtics vs-heat live
The emphasis on transition offenses makes transition defense more important than ever. An underlying catch-22 is involved: both teams want to score in the rim, but each time there is a miss, the promise to race the other way is further extended. See how quickly Grant Williams responds to heat when he can’t convert a solid drive to paint:
Everything is connected, circular, and mutually beneficial: ready-made shots lead to a set of defenses which increases the chances of scoring in stopping power and transition, which leads to a set of defenses, and so on. Butler’s trip to the foul line is a bonus. (In the playoffs, the average offensive possession lasts 18.18 seconds after a hit free throw, second only to the Jazz.)
“I’ve said all year, whenever we let our defense dictate our offense, we’re a much better team,” Butler said after the game.
That ball is around our shooters. We call this style of basketball ‘Miami Hit Basketball’.
The Heat will not be able to pick all of Pritchard’s series. But no matter who is on the floor, like Boston, they will look to speed up the game as much as possible. It is here, in the chaos, where a final trip to the finals can be found.
Miami pulls away for Game 1 win as Jimmy Butler scores 41 points
The Miami Heat won 118-107 against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday night. It was the story of two halves for the hits, who came back from an eight-point halftime deficit alive in the third quarter and dominated Celtic for the rest of the game. Jimmy Butler added 41 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in the win, while Tyler added 18 points from the bench of Hero Heat.
Miami put pressure on the defense in the second half and made life difficult for Jason Tatum and Boston. Tatum finished the game with 21 points in the first half with 29 points, while Jaylen Brown added 24 points. Boston, of course, missed Marcus Smart (out on foot injury) and Al Harford (outside of the Covid Health and Safety protocol) on both sides of the floor, and while Harford could miss Game 2 in league protocols, the optimistic smart could return to the game. 2 from the sprain of that right foot.
Here are three takeaways from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between Hit and Celtics.
1. Jimmy got the bucket
Butler was irresistible for the whole game, but he really came alive in the second half where he picked up 27 of his 41 points on the night. He did a lot of damage to his free-throw line, where he scored 17 points, as he was great at baiting several defenders with his pump net to get a foul call. But it wasn’t just Butler’s score that made a difference for the hit, he did it with his playmaking, rebounding, and most importantly his defense.
Butler finished the game with four steals, three of which came in the third quarter. There was a point in that quarter where Butler came up with a back-to-back steal that easily led to a fast-break bucket, widened Miami’s lead, and stunned the Celtic shell after putting together a sterling performance in the first half. Butler also finished with three blocks, the last of which seemed like a statement, as he stuffed Tatum in a corner 3-point effort in the last minute of the fourth quarter.
Occupying before him, Butler sank a mid-range jumper over Celtic guard Payton Pritchard as he looked down at him as he ran back into defense as if to say, You can’t watch me. To Butler’s right, Pritchard and everyone else in Boston tried to hold him and couldn’t hold him, resulting in an explosive performance by the hit forward, who has now scored 40 or more points three times in these playoffs.
2. Boston collapsed in the third quarter
Things were really different for the Celtics in the third quarter, as they scored 39-14 from halftime after leading by eight points after 24 minutes. Boston dominated the game throughout the two quarters, with Tatum working up to 21 first-half points, the Celtics making 42 points in the paint and 17 assists, showing great ball movement to start the game. But all the success of that first half flew out the window, and not only did the third quarter close the hit gap, they completely steamrolled and worked with a 20-point lead.
Credit Miami’s defense, as the heat suffocated and virtually stopped Boston’s offense as soon as it got halfway to court, had something to do with the Celtic mental error. Tatum racked up six turnovers in the third quarter as he moved away from what he had done for him in the first half and began to rely on foul hunting to get his points. This is the result of just five points from the superstar forward, who struggled to find his shot again after a heated start to the game.
Watch Celtics vs heat live
However, Tatum’s shoulders are not entirely to blame for his third-quarter performance. For three-quarters of the game, Brown was basically a non-factor, and when he finished the night with 24 points, most of that production came in the fourth quarter when the hits were already comfortably ahead.
The Celtics can’t keep Brown alive when the game is virtually out of reach, especially when the team is smart and under two starters at Harford. When Brown had 15 fourth-quarter points to help with the comeback effort, it was too late for his heroism. Boston needed that production in the third quarter when Tatum was shaking and no one else could make points. If Brown had a third-quarter bigger than just two points and 0 for 4 from the field he created, Boston probably wouldn’t have dug itself into a 20-point deficit and would have gotten a real shot towards the end of the game.
3. Vincent went ahead in Lori’s absence
One of the main stories from the hit title in Game 1 is how the team will manage a game against a defense like the Celtics without Kyle Lowry, who is dealing with a hamstring injury without their starting point guard. Although Miami went 6-0 up in the previous games where Lori was sitting in the playoffs, the team still faced as influential and versatile opponents as the Celtics.
Obviously, this was not a big concern as Gabe Vincent put together an impressive performance and finished the game with 17 points, three assists, three blocks, and two rebounds when shooting 50 percent off the field and 43 percent deep. One of the reasons for his third-quarter performance was that the hit was able to work with such a big lead, as he played all 12 minutes in the third quarter and scored 10 points.
Vincent showed some of his flashes in the second round against the 76ers, not entirely surprising to see Vincent make an impact for the heat, but I imagine many did not predict that he would be the second-leading scorer among the starters. It’s not clear when Lori will return for the heat tonight in this series, but in the meantime, Vincent has shown that he can make up for it if need be.