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How it happened: Celtics drop Game 1 of Eastern Conference finals after disastrous third quarter

Grant Williams (right) and P.J. Tucker fought for the ball in the first quarter.Michael Reaves/Getty

The Miami Heat outscored the Boston Celtics by 25 points in the third quarter and went on to a 118-107 victory in Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday.

Jimmy Butler scored 41 points and had key support from Tyler Herro (18) and Gabe Vincent (17) as the Heat took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

The Heat opened the third quarter with an 22-2 run over the first six and a half minutes to flip an eight-point halftime deficit into a 17-point lead. Miami outscored Boston 39-14 in the third.

“It’s been a grind all game with those guys, and it’s going to be the same thing all series,” Butler said in a postgame television interview.


Jayson Tatum scored 21 points as the Celtics built a 62-54 lead in the first half and finished with 29.

“We got out-toughed and out physicaled,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “They looked like they came out in the second half and wanted to up their physicality and aggression at both ends. “And they did. I don’t think we responded well at the other end of the floor.”

Jaylen Brown added 24 points and Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard had 18 each for Boston.

“We tend to have slow starts in the third quarter, that’s something we have to hone in on and control. I think we won every other quarter,” Pritchard said.

Herro had 15 and Butler 14 for the Heat in the first half.

Game 2 is Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Miami.

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Ime Udoka discusses the loss — 11:52 p.m.

Here’s a selection of comments from Celtics coach Ime Udoka:


On the third quarter: “Got out-physicaled, got out-toughed, out-physicaled. They looked like they came out in the second half and wanted to up their physicality and aggression on both ends, and they did that. I don’t think we obviously responded well on either end of the floor. We had eight of our 16 turnovers in that quarter, played in the crowd on offense, got sped up. And then defensively, offensive rebounds, getting muscled around in the post. Some poor fouls got them to the free throw line.

“So, flipped very quickly and just lost our composure. We won three quarters other than that, but obviously that one is going to stand out. 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.”

Can the Celtics clean up their mistakes: “Yeah, of course. Like you mentioned, we won three quarters and won the transition battle, won the second-chance points battle, won the points in the paint and really had one poor quarter that hurt us, and it was strictly from a physicality standpoint. It wasn’t anything different that they did. They just came out and imposed their will.

“Like I said, at least we bounced back in the fourth and got it to a nine, eight-point game and started to play a little bit and matched their physicality, but disappointing that we came out as flat as we did and they increased physicality, strictly that, and made that much of a difference.”


How do the Celtics respond? Do they have to be tougher? “That was the message after the quick timeout to start the half. We talked about it at halftime. They’re going to increase the physicality, and it was a little disappointing that we came out and got caught off guard as far as that.

“But simple clean-ups. As far as what we’ve always preached is, don’t play in the crowd, if you draw two or three, find your outlets, and we did that extremely well in the first half, finding guys for kickout threes and dump-offs at the basket. Kind of reverted back for one quarter, and it cost us.”

Instant Analysis — 11:42 p.m.

By Adam Himmelsbach

MIAMI — The Celtics insisted that they would be rested and ready for the start of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat after a long, grueling, physical series against the Bucks. But the Heat were able to just sit back and watch it transpire.

And after a strong first half in Game 1 on Tuesday, the Celtics were pummeled from all angles by Miami, which used a dominant third quarter to roll to a 118-107 win on Tuesday night.

Read Himmelsbach’s full Instant Analysis of Game 1 here.

Celtics not going down without a fight — 11:03 p.m.

Finn: Celtics have kept fighting, at least. Miami lead is down to 10 with plenty of time left. Figure Butler will go to the line 10 more times, though.

Oh, by the way — 11:00 p.m.

Yang: Celebrity sightings: Rapper Flo Rida and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams are in the house.


Can the Celtics come back? — 10:51 p.m.

Yang: The Celtics will be in the bonus for the final 9:58 of the game. That’ll help if they want to claw their way back from this 18-point deficit.

After three quarters, Miami on top — 10:39 p.m.

Miami leads, 93-76, after three quarters. The Heat outscored the Celtics 39-14 in the third.

Yang: Six turnovers for Jayson Tatum is … not ideal for Boston. Nor is the griping about every single foul called on the Celtics.

Aaron Nesmith giveth: blocking Victor Oladipo at the rim with the Heat in transition.

Aaron Nesmith taketh away: fouling Jimmy Butler with 0.8 seconds remaining in the quarter. Butler made both free throws to give the Heat a 93-76 lead headed into the fourth.

Finn: Just horrendous body language from Tatum the last few minutes.

Nesmith reminds me of young Tony Allen tonight. A couple of crazy athletic plays, biting for a pump fake and fouling at the worst time, nothing doing on offense.

Jimmy Butler has 15 made free throws. So do the Celtics.

Quite a run by the Heat — 10:25 p.m.

The Heat went on a 22-2 run over the first six-plus minutes of the third.

Yang: Boston’s first field goal of the third quarter comes with 4:53 remaining on a Robert Williams and-1. That sequence was key in not letting Miami’s lead get out of hand.

Grant Williams picked up his fourth foul with 2:59 remaining after another bad pass led to a Celtics turnover. He and Ime Udoka got into it a bit after the play.

Finn: Jaylen has been in a fog most of the night. He’s now 3 for 10 from the field. Forcing his offense.


Tables have been turned — 10:16 p.m.

The Heat have rallied to take a 72-64 lead with 6:16 left in the third quarter. The Celtics have managed just 2 points in the third.

Yang: The Celtics have yet to make a field goal through nearly six minutes of third-quarter action. Ime Udoka was forced to call a timeout after a Max Strus transition dunk capped an 18-2 run for the Heat. Strus stripped Tatum, who made no effort to get back on defense and instead complained to the referees.

And immediately after Udoka’s timeout, the Celtics committed turnovers on back-to-back plays. Jimmy Butler stole two passes and cashed in for four points. He’s pumped up and so is FTX Arena.

The Heat will be in the bonus for the final 7:19 of the third quarter. That could be trouble for the Celtics, as Miami is 12 of 13 from the line.

Finn: Payton Pritchard probably shouldn’t be biting for Jimmy Butler shot fakes. Two Jaylen FTs are the only points so far.

Early third quarter observations — 10:11 p.m.

Finn: One thing the Heat are doing to hang close: They’re making their free throws. 11 for 11 so far. Celts are 7 of 11. Feels like Jaylen goes 1 for 2 every time he’s at the line the last few games.

Yang: Marcus Smart is unavailable, but he’s certainly staying active. He’s participating in huddles and encouraging his teammates on the bench.

The Heat should continue to attack the basket, especially because their three-point shot is not falling. Within the first two minutes of the third quarter, Grant Williams picked up two fouls and Robert Williams picked up one while trying to contain Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in the paint. Both Butler and Adebayo are capable of dominating that area.

Finn: Butler has four of Miami’s six offensive rebounds.

Tucker is back — 10:02 p.m.

Yang: Good news for the Heat: PJ Tucker has returned to action after visiting the locker room in the first half.

What to watch in the second half — 9:56 p.m.

Yang: Two things I’m watching in the second half:

1. Jayson Tatum put up big numbers in the first — 21 points on just 14 shots — but he also was on the court for all but 73 seconds. The Celtics were outscored by six in the short stint Tatum sat, but he still needs to rest. Fatigue in general will be something to monitor for the Celtics.

2. Bam Adebayo was essentially neutralized in the first half, scoring just four points on two shots. Robert Williams’s presence as a rim protector is a big reason, but the Heat need to find ways to get Adebayo more involved in the offense.

Also, Adebayo should ignore Williams defensively at the three-point line. The Heat have just 24 points in the paint, while the Celtics have a whooping 42.

Halftime: Celtics up by 8 — 9:43 p.m.

The Celtics are ahead, 62-54, at halftime. Tyler Herro leads the Heat with 15 points. Jayson Tatum has 21 for Boston.

Finn: Miami’s cold three-point shooting has carried over into the Eastern Conference finals. After making just 29.8 percent of their attempts from behind the arc against Philadelphia, the Heat still can’t really buy a bucket from range, making just 4 of 14 (28.6 percent) tonight. As the Bucks learned last series, that’s going to be a big problem.

I’ll always believe Danny Ainge thought he was getting Herro in the first round of the 2020 draft. Miami took him a pick before the Cs were on the clock. Hello, Romeo Langford.

Yang: (i agree!)

Finn: Excellent offensive first half, Tatum has been extraordinary (as usual), but it feels like the Celtics should be up by more than they are. They’ve shot 21 of 30 on 2-point shots.  Really impressive considering that they’re down two starters. We’ll see if stamina is an issue in the second half.

Herro ball — 9:42 p.m.

On cue: Herro steals the ball and runs the court for a transition layup to bring the Heat within six. Even given his defensive limitations, he’s by far had the biggest impact for the Heat.

Trouble for Miami? — 9:37 p.m.

Yang: Uh-oh for Heat: PJ Tucker looked as though he rolled his ankle and limped back to the locker room with 6:25 remaining in the second quarter. Losing Tucker — a starter that brings defensive doggedness, experience, and some three-point shooting — would be a big loss for Miami.

Tyler Herro is living up to his Sixth Man of the Year honors. He’s Miami’s leading scorer with 13 points, helping the Heat even the score in the first quarter and keeping them afloat in the second. Without Herro, this deficit could be much uglier for the Heat.

Finn: Max Strus is minus-19 so far. That’s the kind of stuff that gets you beaten out by Javonte Green.

Star turns for Nesmith, Williams — 9:25 p.m.

Yang: The first postseason action for Aaron Nesmith got off to a good start. He had an immediate impact, blocking Caleb Martin on a gimme at the rim and then grabbing an offensive rebound on the next possession. A few moments later, though, he hurled a pass into the third row of the stands. If Nesmith can keep up the positives, that’ll make a huge difference for the Celtics.

Finn: Rob Williams must be feeling good. Two dunks off lobs this quarter, and he’s yelled on both. Williams’s line so far: 12 points, 4 rebounds (feels like more), 2 blocks (feels like more) in 12 minutes 33 seconds.

I really believe Nesmith will help this team in the near future. His defensive versatility fits what they want to do. But I wasn’t expecting it tonight.

Celtics lead after first quarter — 9:14 p.m.

A back-and-forth first quarter ended with the Celtics in front by three, 28-25. Jayson Tatum has 10 points and Robert Williams 8 for Boston. Tyler Herro has 7 to lead Miami, and Jimmy Butler has 6.

Yang: No foul trouble for the Celtics after the first quarter, which is good because they cannot afford to have anybody else sit. Only Jaylen Brown and Derrick White have picked up a personal.

Finn: The good from the first quarter: Rob Williams was effective on both ends, Tatum in complete command (10 points on 5 of 8 shooting), ball is moving (assists on 8 of 11 field goals), tough defense for the most part. The bad: Let Herro get going a little bit, and he’s already at maximum annoyance level, some defensive lapses in the second half of the quarter, shaky shooting from White.

Brad Stevens must like what he is seeing — 9:10 p.m.

Yang: The Celtics’ first-quarter shot chart must be a work of art to Brad Stevens, who always preached the value of threes and layups. All eight of Boston’s buckets have either come at the rim or behind the arc. The team is certainly having an easier time attacking the basket now that 7-footer Brook Lopez is no longer a factor.

A matchup to watch — 9:05 p.m.

Finn: Daniel Theis is in for Rob Williams, who looked sharp (8 points) but clearly got winded the last couple of minutes. Theis was taken apart in the bubble two years ago by Adebayo, so this matchup bears watching.

With 2:40 left in the first, the score is tied, 21-21.

Impressive early defensive effort — 8:55 p.m.

Finn: Celtics’ defense has been very impressive through the first four minutes. Particularly from Rob Williams and Derrick White, who is all over Max Strus.

Yang: I don’t think anybody was expecting the Celtics to start the game with a 7-0 lead, but the makeshift starting lineup has held its ground. The real test will come later, though, when coach Ime Udoka has to either run his starters on big minutes or extend the rotation to players that don’t typically see the court often.

Finn: I’ve got Payton Pritchard down for 30 minutes and 18 points, Nicole.

Yang: 👀

A full house in Miami — 8:47 p.m.

The Heat’s theme for this postseason has been “White Hot Playoffs,” so most fans at FTX are sporting white. There’s a smattering of Celtics fans, but the home crowd definitely showed up. During starting lineup announcements, the Celtics were expectedly greeted with boos.

Starting lineups — 8:35 p.m.

Celtics: Tatum, G. Williams, R. Williams, Brown, White

Heat: Butler, Tucker, Adebayo, Strus, Vincent

Finn: An unexpected challenge for Celtics — 8:27 p.m.

Well, can’t imagine anyone figured at the end of Game 7 against the Bucks that the Celtics’ starting lineup for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals two days later would include Derrick White, Grant Williams, and Robert Williams, but here we are. The degree of difficulty for Game 1 at least got a whole lot tougher with the mildly surprising news that Marcus Smart is out with a foot injury, and the stunning news that Al Horford is in health and safety protocol.  Resiliency has been a trademark of these Celtics since at least January, but this is an unexpected and difficult test.

Pregame updates — 8:21 p.m.

Coach Ime Udoka said he found out about Al Horford’s status – he is out because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols – on Tuesday afternoon after the team had already met for shootaround. Udoka wouldn’t say whether Horford tested positive, nor would he rule him out for Game 2. According to Udoka, Horford’s availability moving forward will be contingent upon testing, though he would not get into specifics.

The odds are stacked against the Celtics for Game 1. In addition to missing two of their starters, Marcus Smart and Horford, teams that win Game 7 are 32-49 in Game 1 in the ensuing series.

Celtics in the house — 7:19 p.m.

A few visuals from the arrivals portion of the show at FTX Arena in Miami.

Celtics coach Ume Udoka.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff
Robert Williams IIIMatthew J Lee/Globe staff
Jayson TatumMatthew J Lee/Globe staff
This are the towels fans at FTX Arena will be waving in Game 1.Michael Reaves/Getty

Tale of the tape — 7:04 p.m.

The Celtics and Heat begin the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN), and the team statistics on this matchup are pretty even.

Both teams have played 11 playoff games and both are 8-3 in their two series.

The Celtics have a slight edge in points per game in the 2022 playoffs at 108.5, which is seventh among the 16 playoff teams. The Heat are right behind at 107.1 and rank ninth.

Field goal shooting percentage favors the Heat (46.4 percent to 45.4 percent) but Boston has a decided edge in three-point shooting percentage – 37.0 to 32.1. The Celtics are sixth among playoff teams in that category, while the Heat are 13th.

The Heat’s biggest edge is in steals – Miami ranks second in the playoffs at 8.4 per game.

On the individual level, the clear stars of each team have very similar stat profiles in the playoffs: Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is averaging 28.3 points, 6.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals. Heat forward Jimmy Butler is averaging 28.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

Celtics-Heat stat comparison Playoffs only. League rank in parentheses.
Heat Celtics
Games 11 11
Record 8-3 8-3
FG % 46.4 (6) 45.4 (8)
3FG % 32.1 (13) 37.0 (6)
Rebounds 41.4 (9) 41.5 (8)
Turnovers 13.3 (6) 13.2 (5)
Steals 8.4 (2) 6.9 (9)

Injury update — 6:56 p.m.

By Adam Himmelsbach

MIAMI — Celtics guard Marcus Smart will miss Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat Tuesday night because of a foot sprain, and forward Al Horford is sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols, the team announced.

Smart fell during the first half of the Game 7 win over the Bucks in the conference semifinals Sunday. Coach Ime Udoka said Smart played through adrenaline but that the injury tightened up after the game.

Read the full story here.

Heat injury report: Guard Kyle Lowry is out. The team said Caleb Martin (ankle), Max Strus (hamstring), P.J. Tucker (calf), and Gabe Vincent (hamstring) “will all warm up with the intent to play.”

Game details — 6:45 p.m.

Time: 8:30 p.m.


Referees (jersey number): Zach Zarba (15), Tony Brothers (25), Ed Malloy (14)

Broadcast team: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson

Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn. Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.