Posts Tagged ‘2022 NBA Eastern Conference Finals’

The Boston Celtics booked their ticket to the NBA Finals by holding off the Miami Heat 100-96 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.

Boston will take on the Golden State Warriors in hopes of winning its first championship since 2008.

The Celtics led by as many as 17 points in the contest before Miami cut the lead to two with under a minute to play. Crucial Heat misses down the stretch helped Boston hold on.

“Credit to our guys for bouncing back, keeping our composure, and finding a way to win it,” Boston head coach Ime Udoka said after the victory.

Jayson Tatum led the way for the winning side with 26 points, while Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart scored 24 apiece. Grant Williams was the only other Celtic to reach double figures with 11 points of his own.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler dropped a game-high 35 points while playing all 48 minutes in the contest. He and Bam Adebayo (25 points) accounted for 60 of his team’s 96 total points.

Despite Butler’s brilliance, he squandered an opportunity to pull off a miraculous late-game comeback by falling short on a transition 3-pointer that would have given Miami the lead with 16 seconds remaining. He finished just 1-of-4 from beyond the arc.

“My thought process was: Go for the win,” Butler said postgame. “My teammates like the shot that I took, so I’m living with it.”

“That was the right look,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his star’s shot selection. “When it left his hand, I thought it was going down.”

Missed jumpers were a theme for the Heat, who shot just 6-for-30 from deep, tied for their second-worst percentage all season. Each of Miami’s three worst 3-point shooting performances this season came in the playoffs.

On the other side, Boston will have four days to regroup before taking on the Warriors after Brown, Tatum, Smart, and Al Horford all topped 40 minutes in Game 7.

The full schedule for the NBA Finals is as follows:

GAMEDATEAWAYHOMETIME (ET)TV
1June 2BostonGolden State9 p.m.ABC/TSN
2June 5BostonGolden State8 p.m.ABC/SN
3June 8Golden StateBoston9 p.m.ABC/TSN
4June 10Golden StateBoston9 p.m.ABC/TSN
5*June 13BostonGolden State9 p.m.ABC/SN
6*June 16Golden StateBoston9 p.m.ABC/SN
7*June 19BostonGolden State8 p.m.ABC/TSN

* if necessary

Kyle Lowry listened politely while Jimmy Butler shared the credit for Miami’s Game 6 victory until his fellow All-Star took the humility too far and called his 47-point, elimination-avoiding performance “decent.”

“It’s (expletive) incredible,” Lowry corrected him, apologizing for his language to the TV cameras in the back of the room and begging not to be fined by the league. “It’s incredible to have a guy like him next to me. I’ve played with some great players, and he’s one of the best.”

Butler scored 47 points — a career playoff high and one of the best performances by a player facing elimination in NBA history — and the Heat forced the Eastern Conference finals to a decisive seventh game by beating the Boston Celtics 111-103 on Friday night.

Ten years after LeBron James scored 45 points in a Game 6 in Boston en route to the first of the Heat’s back-to-back NBA titles, Butler scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to top him and send the series back to Miami.

With a victory at home, the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.

“This is the way it should be, with these two teams. It should have gone seven games,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m just really thrilled that our group gets an opportunity to compete in a Game 7 in front of our home crowd.”

The winner of Game 7 on Sunday will advance to the NBA Finals against Golden State, which eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in five games Thursday night. Warriors forward Draymond Green said afterward that he expected to play the Celtics.

In the most back-and-forth game of the series, Boston took a 97-94 lead on Derrick White’s 3-pointer with under five minutes to play — the first time all series the lead has changed hands in the fourth quarter. Lowry answered with a 3 and then added two free throws as Miami scored 11 of the next 13 points.

Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists before fouling out with 2:18 left. Butler made 16 of 29 shots — including 4 of 8 from 3-point range — and all 11 free throws.

“He came out from the jump and kind of put his imprint on the game,” White said. “That’s just who he’s been his whole career, constantly attacking and doing what he does to help his team win. We knew it was coming, and we’ve got to do a better job in Game 7.”

Jayson Tatum had 30 points and nine rebounds for Boston, and White came off the bench to score 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Celtics are trying to reach the finals for the first time since 2010, two years after the New Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen won the franchise’s 17th NBA title — a record since tied by the Lakers.

“It’s no secret: It’s Game 7, trip to the NBA Finals, a lot on the line,” Tatum said. “We know what’s at stake. We know how much this means to everybody.”

Jaylen Brown scored 20 points for Boston, missing a pair of free throws with the game tied at 99 after Lowry fouled out. Brown fouled out himself on a charge offensive that was assessed after a challenge on a missed dunk with 13 seconds left and the Celtics down by four.

AVOIDING ELIMINATION

Butler’s 47 points were the seventh-most in NBA history for a player facing elimination.

Elgin Baylor had 61 against Boston in Game 5 of the 1962 finals. Wilt Chamberlain topped 50 three times, Sleepy Floyd had 50 against the Lakers in 1987 and Jamal Murray scored 50 against Utah in 2020.

It was also the third-most to stave off elimination against the Celtics. In addition to Baylor, Chamberlain had 50 in Game 5 of the East finals in 1960.

James’ 45 against Boston in Game 6 of the 2012 conference finals set the stage for a Game 7 win in Miami.

The Heat are hoping Butler’s performance can do the same.

“I get it, people can easily draw the comparisons between the two,” Spoelstra said. “That’s a different era. That’s a different team. I want our guys to embrace this moment.”

IN AND OUT

Miami guard Tyler Herro missed his third straight game with a strained groin, costing the team its No. 2 scorer. Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Max Strus (hamstring) and P.J. Tucker (knee) had been listed as questionable but were in the starting lineup.

Boston’s Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and Robert Williams III (sore knee) tested their injuries pregame and were also in the lineup.

TIP-INS

Heat: Butler had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in the first. He scored or assisted on 24 of Miami’s 29 points in the quarter.

Celtics: Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who was inducted into the ballclub’s Hall of Fame on Thursday night, was courtside. Ortiz threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park earlier in the evening. Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez was also at the game, wearing his World Series ring.

The Boston Celtics know the formula. They believe their defense, as has been the case time and again in these playoffs, will eventually wear down teams.

Hard to argue.

Jaylen Brown scored 25 points, Jayson Tatum added 22 and the Celtics are now one win from the NBA Finals. They ran away after halftime to beat the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference title series.

“I think the mental stress and strain we put on some teams with our defense has worked and carried us through the playoffs at times,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.

Al Horford had 16 points and Derrick White added 14 for the Celtics. Tatum finished with 12 rebounds and nine assists.

Bam Adebayo scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat, who shot 32% in the game — after shooting 33% in Boston’s 20-point win in Game 4. Gabe Vincent added 15, Jimmy Butler had 13 and Duncan Robinson scored 11 for Miami.

The Heat were 7 for 45 from 3-point range. They played without the injured Tyler Herro (groin), and several Miami players were questionable entering the day for a variety of ailments.

“We are not going to make any kind of deflection or any kind of excuse,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Boston beat us tonight. And let’s be clear about that. There’s guys that are far from 100% on both sides.”

Game 6 is in Boston on Friday night, where a pair of trophies bearing the names of Celtics legends will be waiting. The Bob Cousy trophy goes to the East champs, the Larry Bird trophy to the East finals MVP, and the Celtics are one win from hoisting them.

“We’ve got an opportunity to do something with this group that’s special,” Brown said. “Let’s not take that for granted.”

This series has seen massive momentum swings — a 44-14 Miami run in Game 1, a 60-21 Boston run in Game 2, a 46-20 Miami run to open Game 3 followed by a 57-33 Boston run in the same game, and a 26-4 spurt by the Celtics to open Game 4.

The Game 5 run was just as big.

The score over a 6 1/2-minute stretch of the second half: Celtics 24, Heat 2. The turnaround was 59-58 Boston to 83-60 Boston.

“In the first half it was tough because we weren’t hitting shots and we were turning the ball over,” Horford said. “But the key for us was continuing to do what we do defending, and then on offense playing how we play. And eventually we were able to get it going.”

Boston outscored Miami 32-16 in the third quarter, holding the Heat to 17% shooting. The margin was only 11 at that point — but a 14-2 spurt was how Boston opened the fourth quarter, Brown capping the flurry by making three 3-pointers in a span of 2 1/2 minutes, and the lead was out to 23.

Brown then sealed matters with a down-the-lane dunk with 5:19 left, the lead was 18 at that point and the countdown was on for Boston.

“We’re still lining up,” Adebayo said. “We’ve still got to play these games. We still want to win.”

The Celtics haven’t reached the NBA Finals since 2010. There have been four East finals trips since then, with two losses to Miami and two to Cleveland. There were also two chances like the one that awaits Friday — Game 6 in 2012 against the Heat and Game 7 in 2018 against the Cavaliers — when the Celtics had a chance to claim the conference title simply by winning a game on their home floor.

They lost both, LeBron James serving as the official thwarter both times, with 45 points to save Miami in the 2012 game and 35 to lift Cleveland in the 2018 clincher.

He won’t be in the Celtics’ way this time.

Miami will need somebody to provide some semblance of an impersonation.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Butler insisted.

Offense was in short supply in the first half. Miami led 19-17 after one and 42-37 at the break. Tatum was 1 for 9 at intermission, Butler 2 for 8, and the teams combined to shoot 37.8% from the field and 21.6% from 3-point range.

Miami, somehow, got colder to start the second half. The Celtics did not.

The Heat missed their first nine shots from the field after the break, not getting anything to fall until Butler fended off contact and scored on a drive that got Miami within 49-48 with 6:53 left in the third.

But soon, the Celtics had control. Of the game. And the series.

“If you want to break through and punch a ticket to the finals, you’re going to have to do some ridiculously tough stuff,” Spoelstra said.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Boston is now 42-7 this season when holding teams to 105 points or less. … Marcus Smart tested his sprained ankle pregame, declared himself good to go and had only five points but the Celtics outscored the Heat by 13 points in his nearly 24 minutes. … White and Robert Williams III were a combined 7 for 8 in the first half, while the rest of their teammates were a combined 6 for 26.

Heat: Max Strus was 0 for 9, Kyle Lowry was 0 for 6, and the Heat starting guards are a combined 1 for 28 in their last two games. The 0-for-15 on Wednesday was the worst playoff showing for a starting backcourt since the NBA began tracking starters in 1970. … It was the third-lowest point total of the season for the Heat (78 vs. Boston on Nov. 4, 79 vs. Philadelphia on May 6).

HORFORD WATCH

Game 6 will be the 140th playoff game for Horford. Nobody has been in more postseason contests without appearing in the NBA Finals — something that he and the Celtics could change with one more win over Miami.

ANOTHER ROUT

It was the 14th time in the last 19 games during these playoffs where the final margin was at least 10 points.

The Miami Heat left Jayson Tatum lying on the court with a pain in his neck in the closing minutes of Game 3.

The Celtics All-Star did his part to make sure the Heat were hurting after Game 4.

Tatum scored 31 points and Boston took its turn pounding Miami early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

“Obviously, we knew how important this game was,” Tatum said. “Everybody just had to come up with a different sense of urgency.”

Miami missed 15 of its first 16 shots as this bizarre series produced another game that was all but over after 12 minutes. The Heat led 39-18 after the first quarter of Game 3.

Boston improved to 5-0 this postseason following a loss. Coach Ime Udoka said the challenge is finding more consistency.

“Just got to muster that same energy when we came off a win as well as a loss,” Udoka said. “This is a three-game series now. Can’t always just flip the mindset when we come off a loss and get a little desperate.”

Game 5 is Wednesday in Miami.

Payton Pritchard had 14 points for the Celtics. Derrick White added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Robert Williams finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.

“We just wanted to up the effort all-around,” Williams said.

The Celtics led by 27 points in the second quarter and stretched their advantage to 32 in the third. Each game in this series has featured a lead of at least 20 points, and none has been close down the stretch.

Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 23 points. Miami’s starting five of All-Star Jimmy Butler (six points), Kyle Lowry (three points), P.J. Tucker (no points), Max Strus (no points) and Bam Adebayo (nine points) were a combined 7 of 36 shooting. They all sat out the fourth quarter.

“They came out and jumped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight for sure. We never could get any kind of grip on the game.”

And the Celtics stymied the Heat without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat with a sprained right ankle he suffered in the second half of Game 3.

The Heat were without Tyler Herro, who suffered a groin injury late in Game 3.

Butler was in the starting lineup after missing the second half of Game 3 with swelling in his right knee. Lowry (strained left hamstring), Strus (strained hamstring) and Tucker (left knee irritation) all tested their injuries pregame before being cleared to go.

“It’s a part of playoffs. You learn to adapt,” Adebayo said. “Guys being out, guys playing half, guys playing 20 minutes in the game, just depends. You’ve just got to find a way to win.”

Boston’s Williams returned after missing a game with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.

Even with their banged-up roster, the Celtics enjoyed their fastest start of the series. Starting in place of Smart, White scored the game’s first seven points as Boston took an 8-0 lead.

It quickly grew to 18-1, with Miami misfiring on its first 14 shots. The Heat didn’t get their first points until Adebayo’s free throw at the 7:56 mark. Miami made its first field goal at 3:22, a 3-pointer by Oladipo, and finished the quarter 3 for 20.

The Celtics took a 29-11 lead into the second quarter and led 57-33 at the half.

TIP-INS

Heat: Shot 33% (30 of 90). … Finished with 64 bench points. … Miami had one point in the first eight minutes, the lowest total by any team in a playoff game in the last quarter-century, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Celtics: Outrebounded Miami 20-8 in the first quarter. … Several current and former New England Patriots were in the crowd, including Devin and Jason McCourty, Malcolm Butler and Damien Harris.

STARTING DIVE

Per ESPN Stats & Info, the 18 points scored by Miami’s starters is the lowest total by a starting five in a playoff game since starters were first tracked beginning in 1970-71.

TURNOVER FORMULA

After finishing with 23 turnovers in Game 3, the Celtics had nine in Game 4. They improved to 10-2 this postseason when they have 15 or fewer turnovers. Boston is 0-3 when it has 16 or more giveaways.

Still angry over a blowout loss in Miami that cost them home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat jumped to a 25-point, first-half lead over the Boston Celtics in Game 3.

Then Bam Adebayo made sure it was enough – just barely – to give Miami a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Heat center scored 31 points with 10 rebounds, filling a void left by injured All-Star Jimmy Butler and leading Miami to a 109-103 victory Saturday night. Adebayo also had six assists and four of the Heat’s franchise postseason record 19 steals.

“He did his version of what Jimmy does: ‘Do what’s necessary for the game,’” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Tonight we needed the scoring and we needed that offensive punch early on.

“Then, when Jimmy was out in the second half, he just stabilized us,” Spoelstra added. “It got a little gnarly out there and when it did, we were able to get the ball to Bam and just get something coherent.”

The Celtics never led, but they cut a 62-37 deficit to one point, 93-92, with 2:40 to play on a 3-pointer from Jaylen Brown, who finished with 40 points. Max Strus answered with a 3 and then Adebayo bounced off defender Al Horford and made a basket at the shot clock buzzer to give Miami a six-point cushion.

The Celtics never came any closer.

Game 4 is Monday night in Boston.

“In the previous game, as everybody noticed, they beat us like we stole something,” Adebayo said. “That should wake everybody up. Getting beat at home like that, that says it all.”

In a bruising game that saw Butler and Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart leave with injuries — though both Celtics returned — Kyle Lowry came back from a four-game absence and scored 11 with six assists for the Heat. P.J. Tucker — like Lowry, a game-time decision — scored 17 for Miami.

Horford scored 20 points with 14 rebounds, and Smart scored 16. Tatum had 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting; he also had six turnovers, and Brown committed seven of Boston’s 2022 playoff-high 24 turnovers.

“Six turnovers, and no field goals in the second half – that is unacceptable,” Tatum said. “Honestly, I’ve got to play better. I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight. That’s on me.”

After losing Game 2 at home by 25 points, the Heat opened a 62-37 lead with under three minutes left in the second quarter. Then Boston scored the last 10 points of the half to claw its way back into the game.

Things got worse for the Heat when they announced at halftime that Butler, who scored 41 in the series opener, would not return with right knee inflammation.

Miami still led by 15, 87-72, after three, and made it a 17-point game on Adebayo’s basket to start the fourth. But the Celtics ran off the next nine points to get within single digits for the first time since the first three minutes of the game. Trailing 93-80, the Celtics scored 12 straight points – 10 by Brown – to make it a one-point game with 2:40 left.

Miami scored the next seven points.

“We didn’t think that it was all of a sudden going to be an easy series and they were going to roll over,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said. “We bounced back from Game 1 to Game 2, and they were going to do the same that and we had to match that and came out flat for whatever reason.”

IN AND OUT

Boston opened the second with a basket to make it a 13-point game, but the building went silent when Smart, the Defensive Player of the Year, went down in a collision with Lowry while going for a loose ball and needed to be helped to the locker room.

Smart returned just five minutes later, drawing a huge cheer when the scoreboard showed him walking down the tunnel back toward the court. He checked back in with seven minutes left in the third and hit a 3-pointer that made it a 10-point game, 72-62, and forced the Heat to call timeout.

The situation was repeated when Tatum went down in obvious pain with five minutes left in the fourth. He went straight to the locker room, clutching his right side, but also returned to the cheers of the crowd.

“My neck got caught in a weird position,” Tatum said. “Obviously, I went down and felt some pain and discomfort in my neck and down my arm. I went to the back, got it checked on, and started to gain some feeling back and got it checked by the doctors and ran some tests and decided to give it a go.”

Lowry missed eight of the Heat’s previous 10 games with a right hamstring strain, last playing in Game 4 of Miami’s second-round series with Philadelphia. Tucker had a sore left knee but was also in the starting lineup.

“I do not have any updates on anybody,” Spoelstra said. “We’re just going to go back to our cave and just regroup and maybe I’ll have some information for you tomorrow.”

The Celtics played without center Robert Williams III, who missed three games in the second round against Milwaukee with soreness and a bone bruise in his surgically repaired left knee. Daniel Theis started in his place. Derrick White returned after missing Game 2 to be at the birth of his first child.

TIP-INS

The Heat had a franchise playoff record 19 steals, forcing 24 turnovers in all to lead to 33 Miami points. The Heat had nine turnovers that led to nine Celtics points. … Miami’s bench outscored Boston’s 26-16. … The Heat shot 64% in the first quarter, but finished at 46.7%. … Penn State coach and former Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry and Providence College coach Ed Cooley were both in attendance.

His team was down by 10 in the opening minutes, and Boston coach Ime Udoka was making no effort to hide his level of disappointment.

His message was simple.

“Wake up,” he told his team.

Oh, they listened. And the Eastern Conference finals are all knotted up, the series about to shift to Boston with the Celtics now holding the home-court advantage.

Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown each had 24 and the Celtics went on a massive first-half run to roll past the Miami Heat 127-102 on Thursday night in Game 2 of the series.

“Guys have pride and looked at a golden opportunity that we kind of lost (in Game 1) and thought we could do much better,” Udoka said. “And we did that tonight.”

Smart was a rebound shy of a triple-double, after adding 12 assists and nine rebounds.

Grant Williams scored 19 points for Boston, which used a 17-0 run late in the first quarter — fueled by five 3-pointers in the span of six possessions — to take control. Payton Pritchard and Al Horford each had 10 for the Celtics.

“We were pretty confident,” Pritchard said.

Jimmy Butler had 29 points in 32 minutes for Miami, which fell to 7-1 at home in these playoffs. Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo each scored 14 points, and Tyler Herro added 11 for the Heat.

“This only counts as one,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what the experienced players in the locker room and staff understand. We don’t like it. They played extremely well. You have two really good teams and we just have to figure some things out.”

The Celtics — now 4-0 in these playoffs in the game immediately following a loss — made 20 shots from 3-point range to Miami’s 10. Game 3 is Saturday in Boston.

“It’s a loss, whether you lose by one or by 20,” Vincent said. “It’s regroup, go back to the drawing board and get ready for Game 3.”

And the margin could have been worse: Boston led by as many as 34 points in the fourth, putting this game on the cusp of really good Celtics history and really bad Heat history. The Celtics’ record for biggest postseason win ever is 40, the Heat record for biggest postseason loss ever is 36, and those numbers were within reach before a meaningless Miami run over the final moments.

Boston trailed by 10 in the first quarter, then outscored Miami 60-21 over the next 18 minutes — a 39-point turnaround that wound up leading to a 70-45 halftime lead.

The 25-point halftime lead was the biggest by the Celtics in any road playoff game, topping a 22-point edge at the break at Chicago in 2009.

“They came out,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said, “and hit us in the mouth.”

Brown had 11 points in the first quarter, when the Celtics went 9 for 11 from 3-point range. Tatum then had 17 points in the second and Boston kept pulling away, on a day where everything went the Celtics’ way. They learned earlier in the day that two starters — Horford (virus-related issues) and Smart (mid-foot sprain) — were cleared to play in Game 2 after missing the series opener.

“I got to get my rest, got to get my health back, got to watch and see some things and come out and execute in this game,” Smart said.

And the good news kept coming well into the night.

Butler did all he could to try and manufacture a comeback, scoring 16 points in the third quarter and getting the Heat within 17. But a 12-2 run late in the quarter by the Celtics restored a 27-point edge. The lead was 96-71 going into the fourth and the outcome was never remotely close to being in question the rest of the way.

Miami didn’t even use its starters in the fourth quarter.

“It has to hurt,” Butler said. “They tried to embarrass us. They did embarrass us. … Overall, we just have to be better.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Technically, Boston had one other “road” game with a bigger halftime lead. The Celtics were the designated visitor on Sept. 7, 2020 — in the bubble at Walt Disney World — when they led Toronto by 27 at the break. … With Horford back, Grant Williams returned to his off-the-bench role. … Tatum got his second foul with 4:14 left in the first, after charging into Butler. The entirety of the 17-0 run came with him on the bench.

Heat: Kyle Lowry (hamstring) sat for the eighth time in the last 10 games. … It was the first game since Dallas-Atlanta on Feb. 1, 2020 in which both teams had a 10-point lead in the first quarter…. P.J. Tucker had Miami’s first five points, all in the game’s first 51 seconds. It was his 863rd career game, the first in which he had five points in the first minute. Those were his only points of the night, and he left in the third quarter with a left knee contusion.

25 TWICE

This Boston team is the sixth club in the last 25 years to have two separate games where it led by at least 25 points in Miami in the same season. The Celtics also did it on Nov. 4. The other teams who pulled it off: Milwaukee last season (won NBA title), San Antonio in 2013-14 (won NBA title), Boston in 2007-08 (won NBA title), Toronto (2007-08) and Charlotte (2000-01).

500 AND COUNTING

The Heat announced their 500th consecutive sellout, excluding games affected by the pandemic. Only Dallas (867 and counting), Portland (814 from 1977 through 1995), Boston (662 from 1980 through 1995) and Chicago (610 from 1987 through 2000) have streaks that the NBA counts as being longer.

His team was down by eight at halftime, and Miami coach Erik Spoelstra went into the locker room ready to deliver a big speech.

Turns out, one wasn’t needed.

Jimmy Butler decided to let his play do the talking.

Butler scored 27 of his 41 points in the second half, and a huge third quarter by the Heat carried them to a 118-107 win over the short-handed Boston Celtics 118-107 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.

“Jimmy Butler is an elite competitor,” Spoelstra said. “There’s a lot of guys in this league that are playing basketball. He’s competing to win. That’s a totally different thing and he does that as well as anybody in this league.”

Tyler Herro scored 18 and Gabe Vincent added 17 for the Heat, who outscored Boston 39-14 in the third quarter. Butler had 17 alone in the third, outscoring the Celtics by himself over those 12 minutes.

Boston shot 2 for 15 in that third quarter.

“We won three quarters other than that, but obviously that one is going to stand out,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “We semi-bounced back in the fourth and started to play well again and matched their physicality, but 39-14 on 2-for-15 is tough to overcome.”

Along with the 41 points, the rest of Butler’s line: Nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, and three blocked shots. Since the NBA started charting all those stat categories, only five other players — Anthony Davis, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Harden (who did it twice) — had all those numbers in a single game. None happened in a playoff game, until now.

“I continued to play basketball the right way: Shoot the ball when I’m open, attack, hit the open guy,” Butler said. “Honestly, it was a team effort.”

Max Strus scored 11 and Bam Adebayo added 10 for Miami.

Jayson Tatum scored 29 for the Celtics, who were without starters Marcus Smart (foot) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols). Jaylen Brown added 24 for Boston, which got 18 apiece from Robert Williams III and Payton Pritchard.

Game 2 is Thursday.

Boston led by 13 in the first half and took a 62-54 lead into halftime. A 22-2 run was how Miami started the second half, the run punctuated by steals that led to baskets on three consecutive possessions. Strus had one, the next two by Butler pushed the lead out to 76-64, and the Heat were off and running.

“It wasn’t anything different that they did,” Udoka said. “They just came out and imposed their will.”

The lead reached 96-76 when Herro was fouled on a 3-point try and made all three free throws early in the fourth.

Boston had a run left; a 10-0 spurt cut the deficit in half, and a 3-pointer from Tatum made it a nine-point game — outcome still very much in doubt — with 7:35 left.

But the Heat had a response. PJ Tucker answered Tatum’s 3 with one of his own. Brown then connected from deep to get Boston within single digits again, only to have that one answered by a 3 from Strus.

“Our energy shifted,” Adebayo said. “That was the biggest key.”

Some of the plans that both sides had for Game 1 were thrown away about 3 ½ hours before game time, when the Celtics revealed that Smart and Horford wouldn’t be playing. Smart’s absence was somewhat expected because of a mid-foot sprain he suffered in Game 7 of the East semifinals against Milwaukee on Sunday.

Horford’s absence, however, was a surprise.

He entered the league’s health and safety protocols Tuesday afternoon, which ruled him out of Game 1 and quite possibly could keep him out for multiple games going forward. Yet even without two starters, Boston had a chance.

“Other than the third quarter, I think we won every other quarter,” Pritchard said. “Obviously, we try not to let that happen next time.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Boston’s biggest lead was 13 points. The Celtics are now 46-7 this season in games in which it led by at least that many. … Boston scored 18 points of the first 6 ½ minutes of the first half, then two points in the first 6 ½ minutes of the second half. … The Celtics trailed for only 16 seconds in the first two quarters. … Boston has dropped 17 of its last 26 East finals games.

Heat: Former Miami guard Goran Dragic was in attendance. … This series is the 50th in Heat postseason history. They’re now 28-22 in Game 1s. … Butler’s 15th point — a free throw 16 seconds into the second half — gave him 14,000 for his career, including playoffs. He’s the 220th NBA player to score that many. … Miami missed its first seven shots. … Tucker left in the second quarter to get his right ankle re-taped, then returned for the second half.

BLOCK PARTY

There were 20 blocked shots in the game — 12 by Miami, eight by Boston.

SECOND BEST (AND WORST)

The 25-point differential in the third quarter was the second-best for the Heat and the second-worst for the Celtics this season. Miami outscored Charlotte by 27 in the third quarter on Feb. 5. Boston was outscored by 28 points in the fourth quarter by Chicago on Nov. 1.

SLOW SECOND

Boston didn’t have a field goal in the first six minutes of the second half — the slowest start to a half in any of the Celtics’ 94 games this season. The previous low for field goals made in the opening 6:00 of a half by the Celtics this season, including playoffs, was one in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 7.