Well, the Eastern Conference Finals sure got off with a bang.
Despite another huge game from Jayson Tatum, the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead. Goran Dragic led the Heat with 29 points, but Jae Crowder (22), Jimmy Butler (20), Bam Adebayo (18) and Tyler Herro (12) each scored in double figures for Miami.
Herro also came close to a triple-double, recording 11 rebounds and nine assists to go along with his 12 points.
For more on the game, here are some quick observations...
1. The Celtics throw the first punch
Game 1 was all Celtics to begin with.
After one quarter to play, the Celtics were up 26-18 on the strength of some hot shooting and lockdown defence.
Marcus Smart led the way for the Celtics with 10 first-quarter points, but they shot 10-for-21 from the field and 4-for-9 from 3-point range as a team.
On the other end, it was a struggle for the Heat, as they missed 16 of their 22 shot attempts, including six of their nine 3-point attempts. According to ESPN, it made for the lowest scoring first quarter for the Heat in these playoffs.
Entering the second quarter, PointsBet gave the Celtics a 68.3% chance of winning the game.
2. Marcus Smart is on another planet right now
Scoring 10 first-quarter points is one thing.
Attacking Bam Adebayo in isolation and draining a midrange pull-up over him is another.
Marcus Smart's in rhythm early for the @celtics with 10 1st quarter PTS!#NBAPlayoffs on ESPN pic.twitter.com/6ocrP0BKFH- NBA (@NBA) September 15, 2020
Need you be reminded, Adebayo made the All-Defensive Second Team this season and might be the switchiest centre in the league. For Smart to even think about doing that against him shows you how confident he is. (I was going to say how confident he is right now, but who are we kidding, Smart is always confident).
3. Making shots sure helps
The score at the half: 55-55.
So ... what changed after the first quarter? A couple of things.
First, the Heat settled in. They went from not being able to make a shot in the first quarter to making everything in the second quarter.
After scoring 18 points on 6-for-22 in the first quarter, the Heat scored 37 points on 15-for-22 shooting in the second. It was a balanced attack - eight different players scored in the second quarter, including Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk off the bench - but it was Dragic who led the charge with 11 points.
THE 🐉 CANNOT BE STOPPED RN- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 15, 2020
14 points & counting pic.twitter.com/bbV5l1Wmd2
Second, the Heat switched things up by going to a zone.
It's not something we've seen much from the Heat in the season restart, but they played a lot of zone in the regular season. It was only a matter of time until they went to it - you best believe Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra took note of Boston struggling to score against Toronto's zone in the previous round. According to Matt Moore of The Action Network, the Celtics entered this game averaging 0.77 points per possession against zone this playoffs, which ... isn't good.
Boston actually had success against Miami's zone in the second quarter, but a lot of the damage the Celtics did against it came after the Heat had gotten back in the game and taken the lead. It felt a lot more effective than the numbers might suggest.
The second half was the same story by the way - a quarter in which the Heat missed everything followed by one in which they made everything.
Heat offense...- John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) September 16, 2020
1st & 3rd Q: 34 points on 45 possessions
2nd & 4th Q: 72 points on 43 possessions
Weird game for the Heat.
4. We don't talk enough about Bam Adebayo's passing
Having a centre who can do things like this is such a luxury:
👶🐐 @raf_tyler cutssss- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 15, 2020
Adebayo created 13.6 points per game with his assists during the regular season, the second-highest rate at the centre position behind only Nikola Jokic.
His passing ability was on full display in Miami's high-scoring second quarter, as he assisted on five of the team's 15 baskets.
5. We probably don't talk about about Bam Adebayo's defence either
Going back to the whole Adebayo "might be the switchiest centre in the league" thing, how many centres would you trust guarding Kemba Walker on an island?
Bam Adebayo makes a difference. Boston has Williams screen for Kemba, Bam switches on to Kemba. 1v1 and again Bam able to contain the dribble, there is no roll and Miami can still show help (watch Herro). pic.twitter.com/fGioATs78v- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) September 16, 2020
Adebayo headlines a very short list of players who can legitimately guard all five positions.
6. Jayson Tatum, doing superstar things
There's, uhh, not much that can be done to stop this:
SPLASH pic.twitter.com/vieahXbWJb- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 16, 2020
Tatum's growth as an off the dribble shooter is remarkable. According to Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN, Tatum made 30.7 percent of his unassisted 3-pointers last season. This season? 41.1 percent, the best rate among players with at least 100 attempts.
In total, Tatum made 117 unassisted 3s, putting him behind only James Harden (285), Damian Lillard (204), Trae Young (148) and Luka Doncic (117) for most in the league.
When Tatum is knocking those down in addition to doing things like this...
getting to the rim any way he can pic.twitter.com/hoA1yrLf8Z- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 16, 2020
too smooth pic.twitter.com/WdCAUHoLVK- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 16, 2020
...you get nights like this, where he leads all scorers with 30 points.
Tatum made history in the process. He now has 21 20-point games in his postseason career, the fourth-most ever by a player under the age of 23. The only players ahead of him? Kobe Bryant (32), LeBron James (29) and Derrick Rose (22).
That's pretty good company for Tatum to be in.
7. The Heat love crunch time
With 1:09 to go in the fourth quarter, the Celtics were in the driver's seat with a 105-100 lead following a floater by Walker.
Here's what happened on the next three possessions:
- Herro knocks down a 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining.
- Crowder comes up with a huge stop on Walker in isolation, forcing a shot clock violation with 39 seconds remaining.
- Butler hits a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining, giving the Heat a one point lead.
pic.twitter.com/nzLJuLeCIT- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 16, 2020
The problem for the Heat was Derrick Jones Jr. committed a foul away from the play on the in-bounds on the ensuing possession, leading to a free throw and possession for the Celtics. Tatum made the free throw to tie the game, but his 3-pointer came up short, resulting in some free basketball.
8. Overtime was basketball nirvana
First, there was this shot by Walker:
CARDIAC KEMBA ❄️ pic.twitter.com/uuSG8WvInE- NBA TV (@NBATV) September 16, 2020
Followed by this 3-point play by Butler:
TOUGH JIMMY B 3-POINT PLAY!@MiamiHEAT 116@celtics 114- NBA (@NBA) September 16, 2020
12.0 left in OT on ESPN. BOS ball. pic.twitter.com/dTkuoUS8L0
Followed by this block by Adebayo that sent Basketball Twitter into a frenzy:
BAM ADEBAYO DENIES IT AT THE RIM AND THE @MIAMIHEAT WIN GAME 1 IN OT! #NBAPLAYOFFS pic.twitter.com/KC93vLR2Fy- NBA (@NBA) September 16, 2020
Yup, this series is going to be a good one.
9. What's next
Game 2 is on Friday at 4:30 a.m. IST.
Based on how entertaining Game 1 was, you won't want to miss it.
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