Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals lived up to the expectations set for this series. The Boston Celtics held a double-digit lead entering the fourth quarter, even leading by 14 late in Game 1.
Everything seemed to go Boston’s way going into the fourth quarter. However, the Heat never let go on the rope. Jimmy Butler’s three gave Miami a one-point lead with 22 seconds left in regulation. Then, a foul away from the play allowed Jayson Tatum to make a free throw to send it to overtime.
The Celtics held the lead at the start, but the play of Butler and Tyler Herro led Miami to a two-point lead near the end of overtime. On the penultimate possession of the game for the Celtics, Jayson Tatum drove passed Butler, only to be blocked by Bam Adebayo. This propelled Miami to a Game 1 win and an early series lead.
Here are three things to watch for tonight as the Heat square off against the Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Can Goran Dragic shut down Kemba Walker again?
Goran Dragic outplayed Kemba Walker in Game 1. Dragic scored 29 points, seven rebounds, four assists and shot 11-of-19 from the field. He also limited Walker to 19 points on 6-of-19 attempts from the field. Walker admitted after Game 1 that he simply wasn’t playing well enough and it showed in the box score.
Dragic has been one of Miami’s consistent players throughout the NBA Playoffs. He is averaging nearly 22 points per night and is demonstrating the ability to defend other teams guards. Walker struggled against the Toronto Raptors and has been off his game since then. One of the keys for Boston in Game 2 should be to get the 30-year-old point guard rolling again.
Tatum and Smart played tremendous in Game 1, but if Dragic continues to limit Walker, it could solve a lot of Miami’s defensive issues.
How will the Celtics rebound from their Game 1 loss?
The Celtics came out on a mission to start Game 1. They went into the second quarter up 26-18 and limited Miami to its worst first-quarter performance of the entire postseason. However, Boston started to let up its guard and allowed Miami to stay around the whole game.
One of the focuses for Game 2 for the Celtics should be continuing to get Smart open looks. If they can’t get Walker rolling again, Smart and his intensity on both ends of the court is something they need to maintain. After all, the Heat were overwhelmed with Tatum and Smart combining for 56 points.
The Celtics also struggled on defense during the fourth quarter. They need to close out games and put the dagger in Miami’s heart. While they limited the Heat to 16 points in the third, they allowed 35 points in the fourth. Boston also struggled to find its way to score in fourth. Tatum and Walker need to be better and make big-time shots when they need to. Staying consistent on both ends for Game 2 will be a big factor in whether the Celtics can avoid a two-game deficit.
Does Bam Adebayo carry momentum into Game 2?
After one of the greatest blocks in NBA postseason history, it’s important for Adebayo to remain hungry to show his worth in the NBA. Adebayo had 18 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in Game 1, while blocking Tatum’s dunk at the end of overtime.
During Game 1, Adebayo showed his ability to defend one to five. He was switched onto Walker many times during the game and shut him down. The start of the game wasn’t as good for Adebayo as he missed many shots close to the basket. Throughout the game, the big man continued to excel on both ends of the floor.
The key to success for the Heat is how Adebayo plays the rest of the series. Jimmy Butler called Adebayo “the heart and soul” of the Miami Heat during an interview after winning Game 1. For Miami to continue its dominance in the NBA Playoffs, it needs Adebayo to continue to show his dominance on both ends of the floor.