The Boston Celtics may be in trouble.
After stumbling in the second half in Game 1 on Wednesday night, the Celtics did it again on Friday to wrap what has been a disappointing start to the Eastern Conference finals. The Miami Heat rallied from a double-digit hole in the fourth quarter to knock off the Celtics 111-105 at TD Garden, which gave them a 2-0 series lead as it heads to South Florida this weekend.
The Heat are a perfect 6-0 at home so far this postseason, and are now just two wins away from reaching their first NBA Finals since 2020. NBA teams are just 5-23 in a best-of-seven series when losing the first two games of that series at home, too.
“It comes down to the details and the margins … This is a series of discipline and mindset,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “There was times throughout the game where we weren’t the more disciplined team.”
Jimmy Butler, Heat surge late to steal another win in Boston
Boston was in control for much of the game on Friday night, and seemed to be in a position to close it out, too.
After falling into a slight hole in the opening minutes, the Celtics rattled off a huge 21-2 run that carried into the second quarter and gave them a double-digit lead early. Miami, however, rallied right back with a 19-2 run of its own and took a 4-point lead at the break. Caleb Martin dropped 14 of his 25 points in the first half off the bench, and shot 6-of-9 from the field in the first 24 minutes.
Though it took them a minute coming out of the break, Jayson Tatum took over in the third quarter. He dropped 15 points in the period and pushed the Celtics to an 8-point lead at the break. They shut down the Heat, too, limiting them to just 1-of-7 from behind the arc and outscoring them by 12.
The Celtics pushed that lead to double digits almost instantly in the fourth, too, clearly looking to put the second-half collapse they experienced in Game 1 behind them. Jimmy Butler quickly got the Heat back within 4 points, however, and things got very chippy between him and Grant Williams midway through the period.
Jimmy Butler and Grant Williams getting in each other's faces pic.twitter.com/LdME6wCNOb
— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) May 20, 2023
That exchange only helped the Heat, who cut the game to 2 points after a Duncan Robinson layup and then Butler hit back-to-back buckets — including one over Williams — to suddenly lift the Heat back on top.
Jimmy Butler gives Miami the late lead 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/FGKxpJUc2S
— Alex 👋 (@Dubs408) May 20, 2023
A Max Strus free throw, and then a massive put-back dunk from Bam Adebayo, then capped what was a 18-4 run, which completely flipped the game around and gave the Heat a 5-point lead with less than a minute to go.
Tatum hit five free throws over the next 30 seconds to get the game back to just 2 points, but Gabe Vincent and Strus hit four combined free throws themselves to close out the 6-point win and officially take the 2-0 series lead. The Heat closed the game on a 24-9 run after Williams got into Butler’s face.
“Some healthy competition, and I love it,” Butler said of his exchange with Williams on TNT. “I’m always here to compete. I like to talk at times, as long as we get the win I’m good with it.”
Williams didn't take it personally after, either.
“I think he said something, and I just responded," he said. "For me, I’m a competitor. I’m going to battle, he got the best of me tonight. At the end of the day, it’s out of respect … He’s going to have to make every single tough shot the rest of the series. I’m not going to turn and look otherwise, because I respect him as a motherf***ing player.”
“I respect him as a motherf**** player.”
Grant Williams addresses his confrontation with Jimmy Butler 🤝
— Ball Don’t Lie (@Balldontlie) May 20, 2023
Butler led the Heat with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Adebayo nearly had a triple-double with 22 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists. Martin's 25 points marked his playoff career high, too.
Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Jaylen Brown added 16 points, and Robert Williams finished with 13 points and 3 rebounds.
Game 3 of the series is set for Sunday in Miami.