Boston Celtics

For a half, it looked as though the Celtics were going to pick up where they left off in their Game 7 win over the Bucks. However, the tide shifted in the second half, as the Miami Heat came back to claim the 118-107 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night.

The Celtics jumped out to an early lead, and were up by as many as 13 points in the first half. Once the second half started though, turnovers and missed shots became a problem and allowed Miami to take control.

Even without two of their starters in Marcus Smart (foot) and Al Horford (health & safety protocol), the Celtics came out with fantastic energy and an aggressive approach. They ran out to a 7-0 lead before Miami could get on the board, and had a 14-6 lead at the first commercial break.

After missing their first seven shots, the Heat then hit seven of their next eight as they started to close the gap. They’d go on a 12-3 run to knot things at 21 with just under three minutes to go in the first. In the ensuing back-and-forth Miami briefly took the lead, but the Celtics had the advantage going into the break up 28-25.

The Celtics started the second quarter stronger than they started the first. That included a 9-0 run which featured multiple alley-oops between Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams. A Williams block turned into a deep Payton Pritchard three four and a half minutes into the quarter, giving Boston a then-game-high 11 points lead and drawing a Heat timeout.

This time, the pause in the action didn’t do much to cool the Celtics off. They stayed around a double-digit margin for most of the remainder of the half. It wasn’t until the final minute of the second that the Heat got within six, and at the half Boston led 62-54.

Erik Spoelstra’s halftime message to his team proved to be effective. Miami raced out to a 10-1 run to start the second half, taking the lead 64-63 when Ime Udoka called a timeout. That didn’t do much to kill the momentum, as Miami had seemingly suddenly figured out its interior defense after allowing 42 points in the paint in the first half. The Celtics started the second half 0-6 and the Heat extended their run to 18-2 over the first six minutes of the third.

It wasn’t until seven minutes into the quarter that the Celtics made their first shot, an and-one layup from Robert Williams. That keyed a 9-0 Boston run that got the game back within three points. However, that momentum didn’t last long as the Celtics continued to turn the ball over on a frequent basis. Neither Jayson Tatum nor Jaylen Brown made a shot in the third, and the Celtics were outscored 39-14 in the third and trailed 93-76 heading into the fourth.

Another issue for Boston was scoring at the rim. After recording 42 points in the paint in the first half, they had six such points in the second.

Chipping away slowly, the Celtics went from down 20 to down 12 in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. They’d get as close as seven in the final two minutes, but couldn’t erase the damage from the lopsided third quarter.

Tatum finished the game with a team-high 29 points on 10-of-21 shooting, although he was 2-of-9 from the field. He also turned the ball over seven times.

Despite struggling for most of the game, Brown came on strong in the fourth and ended up with a 24-point, 10 rebound double-double. He shot 7-of-17 from the floor.

In his return to action after missing four games with a knee injury, Robert Williams may have been the Celtics’ best player. He had 18 points and nine rebounds with two blocks.

After a slow first quarter, Jimmy Butler heated up and took the game over for Miami. He ended up scoring a game-high 41 points which included a 17-of-18 game from the free throw line.

It’s a quick turnaround for Game 2, which will be Thursday night in Miami. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m., with pregame coverage beginning at 8 on 98.5 The Sports Hub and the 98.5 The Sports Hub Celtics Radio Network.

PHOTOS: Celtics take on Heat in Game 1 of 2022 Eastern Conference Finals

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