BOSTON (CBS) — If Game 1 is any indication of how the Eastern Conference Finals are going to go, it’s going to be a heck of a series between the Celtics and the Heat. Unfortunately, Game 1 didn’t go the way the Celtics would have liked, as Boston let a fourth-quarter lead slip away and couldn’t make enough plays in overtime to come away with a win.
Jayson Tatum’s game-tying dunk attempt was blocked by Bam Adebayo with 3.7 seconds left in overtime, and the Heat came back to take Game 1, 117-114.
THE BLOCK pic.twitter.com/xJVQKiC5LJ
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 16, 2020
Goran Dragic led the way for Miami with 29 points, Jimmy Butler hit some key shots in the fourth quarter and overtime and finished with 20 points, and Adebayo finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Tyler Herro scored 12 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and had nine assists for Miami off the bench.
Boston got big games out of Tatum (30 points and 14 rebounds) and Marcus Smart (26 points), but let leads slip away in the fourth quarter and now find themselves in a 1-0 series hole.
This is the continuation of an unfortunate trend for the Celtics, who have struggled to close out teams at the end of games. Boston was in the penalty early in the fourth quarter which allowed the Heat to chip away, and the Celtics got caught looking on defense way too often against a dangerous offensive team. Miami has had a penchant for coming back this postseason, and they kept that going on Tuesday night.
“The fouls killed us and our transition defense, in addition to playing slower and pounding the ball more. We have to be better in all those areas as the games go back and forth,” Brad Stevens said after the loss. “We have to play better. Transition defense really stands out.”
“It got stagnant,” Smart said of the Boston defense. “We rested and got complacent. Against a team like this you can’t do that.”
Kemba Walker hit a step-back with 23.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Celtics a 114-113 lead. But Butler made a strong drive to the hoop for two and the foul against Tatum, putting Miami ahead 116-114 with 11 seconds left. Adebayo hit one of his two free throws after making his game-saving block on Tatum, which gave the Celtics one final chance, but Tatum’s last-second heave came up short.
The end of regulation was a frantic few minutes, as Miami took a 106-105 lead with 22 seconds left on a corner three by Jimmy Butler. But after a Boston timeout, Derrick Jones Jr. fouled Smart before the Celtics could inbound. That gave Boston a free throw and the ball, and Tatum knocked down the freebie to tie it 106-106. Tatum front-rimmed a three on the final shot of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
The Celtics had a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Heat outscored them 35-23 in the frame. Boston had a five-point lead with 1:08 to go after Walker made a floater, but the point guard’s struggles continued and he turned the ball over with 38.9 seconds left when he was denied by Jae Crowder with the Celtics up 105-102. Butler canned his three on the ensuing Miami possession.
Walker played better late in the game, but his struggles continued. He shot just 6-for-19 from the floor and hit only one of his nine attempts from three-point range.
After losing every third quarter against the Raptors last series, the Celtics outscored the Heat 28-16 in the third on Tuesday. Boston closed the quarter on a 13-2 run, with Tatum and Grant Williams each hitting threes. Tatum added three more from the free throw line, while Kemba Walker was fouled while shooting a three by Kendrick Nunn and hit all three of his freebies to give Boston an 83-71 advantage heading into the fourth.
The Celtics led by eight points after the first quarter, holding Miami to just 18 points — the Heat’s lowest scoring first quarter of the playoffs. But after hitting just 6 of their 22 shots in the opening frame, the Heat exploded in the second quarter, dropping 37 points on the Celtics.
The Heat shot a blistering 68 percent in the second frame (15-for-22), hitting nine of 10 shots during one stretch. The Celtics struggled for against Miami’s zone in the second frame, but the game was tied 55-55 at halftime. Boston stayed afloat thanks to 15 first-half points from Tatum, 13 from Smart and nine points from Brad Wanamaker off the bench. Dragic had 16 points for Miami in the first half, with Butler scoring nine.
Game 2 will tip off a little after 7 p.m. on Thursday night.