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Celtics Protect the Parquet in Dominant Display in Game 1 vs. Heat

Vaseline 2 months ago

1. In the 31 regular season games for which the Celtics’ top six were available, they went 24–7, averaging 118.9 points, allowing just 107.5 points per game.

Their two-way prowess was on immediate display as Sunday’s series opener got underway at TD Garden. Boston raced out to a 14–0 lead, which increased to 15, the largest lead for the home team in the first frame, when Jrue Holiday missed a Kristaps Porzingis three, leading to Jayson Tatum’s shot from outside the buried the arc to extend their lead to 17-2.

They played with high energy, consistently getting stops, pushing the pace and creating quality looks on the offensive end. That includes Jaylen Brown, who scored Sunday’s first five points to edge past Jaime Jaquez Jr. turned, leaving him in his wake, making a two-handed flush.

2. The Heat’s zone defense slowed the Celtics’ offense, allowing them to close the gap to 26-21 in the second quarter.

Porzingis outscored all competitors by seven points in the first 12 minutes. Tatum scored five points and handed out the same number of assists.

But after a fast start, Boston finished the first period shooting 38.5% from the field, including 6/18 (33.3%) from three-point range.

Bam Adebayo led Miami with six points, with his production helping the visitors gain a 14-6 lead in the paint.

3. The Celtics took advantage of the visiting zone defense and the attention Tatum and Brown commanded with the ball in their hands, often getting Hauser and Pritchard quality looks from beyond the arc.

They combined inside-out ball movement with a willingness to make the extra swing pass to make that happen. There were also several of Al Horford’s screen assistants who freed up Hauser.

The 6-foot-4 sharpshooter entered halftime with 12 points on 4/6 shooting from three-point range. Pritchard produced eight and distributed four assists. They combined for six triples, doubling Miami’s output in the first 24 minutes.

4. A 24-16 advantage in points in the paint was crucial in ensuring the visitors stayed within 15, trailing 60-45 at intermission.

Yet Tatum consistently made them pay for sending a second defender on him, repeatedly making the unselfish play to facilitate his teammates. The five-time All-Star still scored 15 points and led all scorers at halftime. He combined that with eight rebounds and six assists, also the most in the first half.

5. A driving force behind the Celtics’ acquisition of Porzingis was a potential series against the Heat. His ability to punish turnovers and produce points on post-ups is critical to their success.

But on Sunday, much of his post-screening damage as a scorer came from behind the arc, where he buried four of his first seven threes for 16 points in the first 36 minutes.

6. He contributed to a three-point barrage that saw Boston bury 7/13 triples and combined it with a suffocating defense that held Miami to 6./21 (28.6%) shooting, including 2/14 (14.3% from three-point range).

That two-way dominance translated into beating the Heat 31-14 and breaking the game open. Porzingis and Brown each had 10 points. No one in Miami scored seven. The hosts entered the final frame in firm control with a 91-59 lead.

7. The Celtics were not at their best in the fourth quarter, being outscored 29-12 with just under four minutes left in the period and committing five turnovers that the Heat turned into 13 points.

That sparked an 18-2 run, bringing Miami within 15, 103-88, with 3:57 left.

But Tatum gifted Derrick White a three that secured Boston’s first triple-double in the playoffs since Marcus Smart did so in a double-overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors in the bubble in 2020, allowing the hosts to foil the visitors’ comeback attempt ward off.

Tatum finished with 19 points, ten rebounds and ten assists in the Celtics’ 108–94 victory.

8. Game 2 of this rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals takes place on Wednesday evening. That matchup kicks off at 7:00 EST at TD Garden.