The Boston Celtics started Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals with a strong first half, leading 66-57 over the Miami Heat. However, the third quarter saw the Celtics’ performance take a turn for the worse, as they were outscored 46-25 by the Heat. This gave Miami a 12-point lead, which they held onto for the rest of the game, winning 123-116.
When asked about the Celtics’ second-half struggles, Jaylen Brown attributed it to the team’s lack of intensity. He stated that the team needed to play with more focus and energy, especially since they were in the Eastern Conference finals.
Statistically, the Celtics’ performance dropped off in the second half compared to the first. They had 15 assists and five turnovers in the first half, but only seven assists and 10 turnovers in the second. The Heat, on the other hand, improved their ball control, going from nine assists and 11 turnovers in the first half to 11 assists and four turnovers in the second.
The Celtics dominated points in the paint in the first half, outscoring the Heat 40-16. However, in the second half, Miami was able to edge Boston 24-22 in this category. The Heat also had a similar change in second-chance points, with Boston having an 11-2 edge in the first half, compared to Miami’s 10-7 advantage in the second.
The Heat’s success from the 3-point range was also a major factor in their win. They shot 16-for-31 from beyond the arc, which contributed significantly to their 46-point third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics’ offense fell apart, failing to make a field goal over more than four minutes late in the game. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla tends to focus on offense rather than defense, which was reflected in his decision to play reserve guard Payton Pritchard over Grant Williams, who was a key part of last year’s playoff rotation.
Despite Mazzulla’s offensive mindset, Marcus Smart believes that the team needs to focus more on physicality and defense. He stated that the Heat didn’t change anything tactically from the first half, but simply upped their physicality, which the Celtics failed to match.
Jayson Tatum, who had 30 points in the game, didn’t take a shot in the fourth quarter, and made three of his four turnovers inside the final three minutes. He acknowledged his mistakes and stated that he needed to slow down in those moments.
Mazzulla chose not to call any timeouts in the disastrous third quarter, which has been a season-long storyline around his coaching style. Smart defended Mazzulla, stating that it’s not the coach’s responsibility to bail the players out and that the team needs to take accountability for their own performance.
The Celtics will need to regroup and come back stronger in Game 2 if they hope to even the series against the Heat.