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NBA Playoffs

The Heat couldn’t buy a bucket in the first quarter, and things didn’t get much better after that

Miami’s Gabe Vincent battles the Celtics' Robert Williams for a first-quarter loose ball.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Eight minutes and 38 seconds.

That’s how long it took the Heat to score their first field goal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night at TD Garden. Center Bam Adebayo had knocked down one of two free throws to get Miami on the board, but the Heat could not buy a bucket from the field.

Adebayo, coming off his breakout 31-point performance in Game 3, opened the game by missing an 18-foot jumper. All-Star Jimmy Butler then missed a 9-foot jumper. P.J. Tucker missed from 10. Max Strus missed a 3-pointer. Kyle Lowry missed a 20-foot pull-up.


Whether the ball clanked off the rim or spiraled in and out, the misses kept coming. Not a single member of Miami’s starting lineup could score as the Celtics built an 18-1 lead.

Finally, with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter, Heat guard Victor Oladipo connected on a 3-pointer to break the streak after his team missed its first 14 shots from the field.

“They came out and jumped us,” said coach Erik Spoelstra.

The start was historically bad. They became the first team since 2009 to go the first seven minutes of a playoff game without scoring a field goal. They shot 3 of 20 in the first quarter, scoring just 11 points — the fewest in franchise postseason history.

Things didn’t get much better. The Celtics, who weren’t shooting lights out by any means, coasted to a 102-82 victory, evening the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t really get it going,” Oladipo said. “But it’s a seven-game series for a reason.”

Oladipo singlehandedly kept the Heat around, but his 23 points were not enough. Heat starters collectively finished with 18, marking the first time in league history that a bench player outscored an entire starting lineup in a playoff game. The starters shot a combined 7 of 36 (19 percent) from the field.


Butler, initially listed as questionable because of right knee inflammation, connected on just 3 of his 14 field goal attempts. He shot below 30 percent for the first time this postseason, and did not reach double digits for the second straight game — he didn’t play the second half of Game 3.

Asked if his knee played a role in his performance, Butler pushed back.

“I’m straight,” he said. “No excuses for how I played tonight. It’s got nothing to do with my knee. I just have to be better. I will be better. I’m not too worried about it.”

No defense in the NBA is good enough to make the Heat shoot as poorly as they did, even though the Celtics have been extremely impressive. But Boston’s defense — particularly the return of Robert Williams — affected the Heat’s shot selection, forcing them to settle for mid-range jumpers and outside shots in the early going.

The lack of drives to the rim also correlated with fewer trips to the free-throw line. The Heat attempted just 14 to Boston’s 38. Both Butler and Adebayo stressed the need to not shy away from contact and penetrate the paint more.

Exacerbating Miami’s offensive woes was the absence of guard Tyler Herro, who was ruled out because of a groin injury. In Game 1, when the Heat starters also couldn’t get much going early, Herro provided a spark off the bench and kept his team within striking distance. Spoelstra’s alternative options are not the same threat to score at all three levels as Herro.


If Herro remains unavailable for Game 5, the pressure only increases for Miami’s starting lineup to strike early, especially given how this series is trending. Every game has featured a 20-point lead, and whichever team built that cushion has gone on to win.

But if the Heat are not healthy, they may not have the offensive firepower to do so. Butler logged 27 minutesMonday, not getting pulled until there was 4:04 remaining in the third quarter, despite the game being over well before then. Lowry, who is still battling a hamstring injury, played 21 minutes.

Butler is 32 and Lowry is 36, so they need all the rest they can get. The Heat, however, insist they have enough, even with three of their top offensive players hurting.

“Our team has proven that we have a bunch of different ways that we can find a solution to get a win,” Spoelstra said. “We can do it in the mud. We can win it ugly. We can win it when the floodgates come open hitting threes. We can do it with Jimmy taking over a game. We can do it when he’s facilitating.

“We have the mental fortitude and the collective toughness to be able to embrace what we have.”

Added Adebayo, “We’re one of those teams, we’ve had so many injuries throughout the season that we’ve learned how to win with guys being out, with guys playing halves, with guys playing 20 minutes a game.


“It just depends. We just have to find a way to win.”

Needing eight minutes and 38 seconds to score your first field goal is certainly not going to cut it, though.

Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.