Despite it being a tightly contested battle throughout, the Boston Celtics gave away game one of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat.
The Boston Celtics found themselves up 12 points entering the fourth quarter, but couldn’t seem to get a bucket or a stop when it mattered most, losing by a score of 117-114 in overtime to the Miami Heat.
Down the stretch, the C’s offense stalled into isolation attempts at the end of the shot clock, a game plan that’s not going to succeed against this great defensive team.
At the end of regulation, Boston dribbled the ball over and over again until five seconds on the shot clock, then looked for Kemba Walker or Jayson Tatum to hit a step-back 18-footer. Sometimes they hit, but most of the time they didn’t.
Not running actual plays in crunch time led to sloppy offense, and allowed the Heat to get out in transition for easy looks.
In the fourth quarter, they also fouled too much, putting Miami in the bonus just four minutes into the final period. This let the Heat shoot 12 free throws in the final 12 minutes alone, getting easy points while Boston was struggling on the other end.
After Marcus Smart bailed out the team by drawing a foul before the inbound pass to tie the game, Tatum put up a step-back three for the win, which ultimately fell short. If he looked to drive to the rim or a closer look at the basket things might’ve ended differently, but who knows.
At the end of the overtime, Tatum tried just that, as he went for a game-tying dunk with five seconds remaining.
As for Tatum’s stat line, he finished with 30 points on 10-24 from the field, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks, continuing his high-level of play that he’s put forth throughout this year’s postseason. He had a magnificent game up until the stretch, where he couldn’t get a bucket in isolation.
For the next game, the offense needs to run more through him instead of Kemba Walker, who couldn’t get it going until late in the game.
Walker continued his cold stretch, shooting 6-19 in 43 minutes for 19 points.
For the majority of the game, Walker dribbled into defenders looking to find separation, but couldn’t get any of the elite opposition to budge. This ended up in turnovers or bad possessions, as he barely got any good looks the whole night.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Boston Celtics allowed switches too easily, often ending up with Walker on Jimmy Butler or a bigger playmaker. Once again, this gave the Heat an easy opportunity on offense, while the Cs couldn’t find anything that worked for their offensive possessions.
On a night where Kemba can’t seem to find the rim, usually they can survive with a combination of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward. However, without Hayward, the Celtics lose another ball-handler and shot creator for when their offense goes silent.
Imagine having Hayward in late-game situations when Tatum or Kemba gets doubled — Brad Stevens would be much happier.
Jaylen Brown had a solid game but disappeared down the stretch with a lack of touches. He ended with 17 points and five rebounds in 44 minutes.
On defense, he had a below-average game by his standards, often falling asleep on off-ball movement, allowing easy layups. In isolation defense, he was still himself, but he has to focus more when his man doesn’t have the ball.
Marcus Smart continued his hot streak from downtown, going 6-13 from distance for 26 points.
At times, he went for heat checks instead of finding teammates for easy layups, but his confidence in his shot is off the charts. The Boston Celtics get the good and the bad sides of Smart, and they’ll happily take it if he’s hitting six threes every night.
Brad Wanamaker had his best game of the playoffs on both ends of the floor, with a stat line of 11 points, six assists, three rebounds, and five steals. He played great help defense, crashing the paint from his man on the perimeter.
On offense, he played great in the pick and roll, creating better offense than Walker for the majority of the game. To have great bench production from Wanamaker and lose certainly stings, but it’s quite encouraging to see.
For Miami, Goran Dragic had a field day against the All-Star guard, finishing with 29 points on 11-19 shooting from the field. If Dragic is the best point guard in the series, the Boston Celtics will have no chance of moving on to the NBA finals.
Look for Smart to take a bigger assignment of the Heat point guard in game two to limit his production.
The combination of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo came up huge down the stretch for Miami. With Butler hitting shots at the end of regulation and overtime, and with Bam getting the key stop to shut down the Celtics’ chances, the Heat have a 1-2 punch that can compete with anyone.
Along with their star power, Jae Crowder scored 22 points on five deep balls while Tyler Herro had a clutch 12 points in 40 minutes with Duncan Robinson being in foul trouble for a majority of the contest.
Overall, this was a great game of basketball that the Boston Celtics could’ve easily won.
Unfortunately, the offense stalled and the Heat got better looks down the stretch. Don’t be discouraged just yet Celtics fans, this team doesn’t quit and neither should your confidence!