The Celtics faltered in the second half and never recovered, losing Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals series to the Miami Heat, 123-116, on Wednesday at TD Garden.
Boston allowed 46 points to Miami in the third, all but erasing the momentum they’d gained in the first half, in which Jayson Tatum scored 18 points and Marcus Smart notched 10 rebounds.
Miami led 103-91 entering the final quarter. The Celtics went on a 7-0 run to begin the fourth without Tatum on the floor, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.
Tatum was twice called for traveling with under two minutes to play, and the two turnovers kept the ball out of the Celtics’ hands down the stretch.
Tatum finished with 30 points and 7 rebounds. Smart added 13 to go with his 11 assists. Jaylen Brown scored 22 and picked up nine rebounds.
Jimmy Butler was his usual stellar self, scoring 35 points — a game high — along with five rebounds and seven assists. Bam Adebayo added 20 points for Miami.
Game 2 is on Friday at TD Garden.
Read more about the Celtics’ Game 1 loss to the Heat
- Adam Himmelsbach’s instant analysis: What happened to the Celtics?
- Dan Shaughnessy: It’s only Game 1, but after a dysfunctional loss to the Heat, how can we trust these Celtics?
- YouTube TV viewers miss out on end of Celtics-Heat game after feed falters in fourth quarter
Heat 123, Celtics 116: How it happened
Jimmy Butler on the Heat’s playoff run thus far — 12:05 a.m.
Jimmy Butler was asked after the Heat’s Game 1 win if he expected Miami to make it this far. His response:
“Damn right I did. Damn right we did. And the best part about it is we still don’t care what none of y’all think, honestly speaking. We don’t care if you pick us to win. We never have. We never will. We know the group of guys we have in this locker room. We know that Coach Spo puts so much confidence and belief in each and every one of us. Coach Pat as well.
“So our circle is small, but the circle got so much love for one another. We pump constant confidence into everybody. We go out there and we hoop and we play basketball the right way, knowing that we’ve always got a chance.”
What Erik Spoelstra had to say after Game 1 — 12:00 a.m.
On what changed at halftime: “There was actually not a whole lot to be said. Our guys knew. Playing against a very good basketball team, and in the first half, we had 11 turnovers and they had 40 in the paint. I can’t say that that’s just all us. That’s what they are capable of doing, if we are not really on top of our game.
“We were fortunate that we were only down nine. ... We’ve been in a lot of these situations where we’ve had to battle back from deficits, even on the road. So we just started to chip away at it, and finally got the lead and were able to take control from there.”
On Jimmy Butler taking control in the second half: “As one of the premier, if not the premier, two-way basketball players in this association, that’s what we needed. We needed him to make some plays defensively. We needed him to also just be ball containment defensively. On the ball, off the ball, all that stuff. Settled us offensively. That’s a big part of us not turning the ball over, is just having a place where you can throw the ball and get a bit more settled.”
On limiting the Celtics from three: “It felt like they had a ton of them in the first half. I don’t know, I’m not even prepared to answer that right now. I haven’t looked at the box score. I felt like they had more, but we know that’s a big part of what they do. We are trying to take some of those away, but it’s tough.”
Joe Mazzulla’s postgame comments — 11:50 p.m.
On what happened in the third quarter: “Lost our offensive purpose, lost our game plan discipline, allowed them to get out in transition, get second-chance shots, didn’t guard the three-point line.”
On this being the Celtics’ fourth home loss in the playoffs: “We got away from who we are in the third quarter. Whether it’s home or away, it’s the details, it’s the margins, it’s the little things. We’ve shown we can do it both home and away, and I don’t think that matters as much as what our mindset is during certain stretches.”
On the Heat’s hot shooting from three: “That kind of goes back to some of our game-plan execution as far as taking away certain personnel. (Kyle) Lowry hit one in transition, which he’s great at. (Kevin) Love hit one in transition, which he hunts. We lost sight of (Max) Strus a couple times. I know he hit a deep one. I think it’s more about personnel tendencies and game plan execution.
On the third quarter making all the difference: “It did, but we were prepared, and then we let go of the rope. There’s two storylines here. It’s one, we were ready to play and we did a great job executing on both ends of the floor in the first half, and it’s about the consistency of they’re going to continue to play. So we have to be prepared for when we do outplay them that they’re going to respond and we have to respond.
“So we were prepared. We just let go of the rope.”
Tatum disappears in fourth quarter — 11:40 p.m.
Why won’t Mazzulla call timeouts? — 11:30 p.m.
From Himmelsbach: Joe Mazzulla took plenty of criticism earlier this season year for being so reluctant to take timeouts. He’d mostly moved past the habit that drove fans crazy as the season progressed, but there it was again in the third quarter Wednesday.
The Heat started the second half with a 13-1 run, with several baskets coming on transition attempts that usually draw Mazzulla’s ire. During the surge, fans could even be heard yelling to him to call a timeout. But basket after basket he resisted, until a Jimmy Butler 3-point play that gave the Heat a 79-78 lead with 6:28 left led to a TV timeout.
Mazzulla: ‘We won three of the four quarters’ — 11:20 p.m.
“We won three of the four quarters. We lost one quarter because of our sense of urgency.
“... We have to raise our level of urgency and our mindset.”
A house of horrors — 11:15 p.m.
Per the AP: The Celtics are 10-11 in the last 21 playoff games at TD Garden.
YouTubeTV falters at end of Celtics-Heat game — 11:10 p.m.
By Chad Finn
Viewers who were watching Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Finals opener between the Celtics and Heat on YouTube TV lost the feed of the game for nearly the game’s final 5 minutes.
That may not have been such a bad thing for Boston fans in the end – the Heat beat the sloppy Celtics, 123-116, with Boston committing four turnovers in those final minutes – but it was exasperating in the moment.
With 4 minutes and 47 seconds left and the Heat leading the Celtics 114-110, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra called a timeout, and TNT went to break. In the middle of the trailer for the movie “The Little Mermaid,’’ the feed buffered and would not allow viewers to advance past the trailer. A portion of the commercial would play on a loop, then restart again.
Similar issues did not plaque any other channels on the streaming service. TNT did not function correctly on YouTube TV until shortly after the game was complete.
YouTube TV acknowledged the problem on Twitter but did not explain what had happened.
A total disaster. You drop channels, including MLB Network, and raise the prices for that @YouTubeTV. Brutal, just brutal. Imagine this happening during the NFL season with Sunday Ticket. Or if Peacock craps out during this NFL playoff game. https://t.co/mJkEvOkmcN— Christopher Gasper (@cgasper) May 18, 2023
Celtics fans might be glad they missed the end of Game 1.
Jayson Tatum was twice called for traveling with fewer than two minutes to play, all but sealing the Celtics’ loss. Despite starting out on a 7-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, Boston couldn’t find a way to stop Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
Adam Himmelsbach’s instant analysis — 10:55 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
After surviving a pair of elimination games and defeating the 76ers in the last round, the Celtics returned to TD Garden with a clean slate against a seemingly overmatched opponent. But the Heat, who needed a fourth-quarter comeback in the second play-in game just to reach the playoffs, have been unbothered by their underdog status for weeks.
And on Sunday, 8th-seeded Miami seized control with a dominant third quarter and then forced the Celtics to unravel down the stretch, as the Heat grabbed a 123-116 win to take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Jimmy Butler had 35 points to lead the Heat, who shot 54.1 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from the 3-point line. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points, but committed three critical fourth-quarter turnovers.
After the Heat outscored the Celtics, 46-25, in the third quarter to take a 103-91 lead to the fourth, the Celtics needed just 93 seconds to unspool a 7-0 run. But the surge briefly stalled there, with Butler’s pull-up jumpers keeping Boston at bay.
The Heat then hit their first cold spell of the game, going more than three minutes without a point. But the Celtics were unable to take advantage, undone by one miscue after another. Al Horford and Tatum threw the ball away, and Tatum then committed consecutive travels before Butler rolled in a 3-pointer with 1:02 left that made it 120-110.
Celtics lose — 10:51 p.m.
Final: Miami 123, Boston 116.
Fans are filing for the exits — 10:49 p.m.
It’s Miami 122, Boston 114 with 27.7 seconds.
KT: Can we talk about how quiet the Garden is? That Game 7 energy is long gone ...
TV troubles — 10:44 p.m.
CF: YouTube TV lost the feed with about 4 minutes left.
KT: Probably a good thing, Chad. You don’t want to see this.
A Mazzulla timeout with 3:19 to go — 10:40 p.m.
Heat 114, Celtics 109 | 3:19, fourth quarter
KT: I get Nicole’s point about percentages, but ... how many early series games do we have to watch this team throw away at home? Going down 0-1 to this Heat team would carry way more pressure than it would against Atlanta or Philly. We know Jimmy Butler and Co. can take out a contender. Just ask Milwaukee.
Heat 114, Celtics 109 — 10:35 p.m.
Heat 114, Celtics 109 | 4:47, fourth quarter
CF: I’d prefer he come in for Brodgon. They need stops. But it was absurd to sit him so long with Payton Pritchard on the court. Pritchard has played 11 minutes, hasn’t scored, and has one assist. I just don’t get what Mazzulla was trying to do, other than throwing something at the Heat that they couldn’t have been expecting.
NY: As bad as the Celtics were in the third quarter, there is more pressure on the Heat right now to close this game out. They aren’t going to shoot these percentages very often. It would be a major disappointment for them to waste those numbers.
Heat 112, Celtics 103 — 10:30 p.m.
Heat 112, Celtics 103 | 6:30, fourth quarter
CF: Is Smart hurt?
NY: Apparently not. Here he comes for Derrick White with six minutes to go.
Jaylen Brown goes down — 10:25 p.m.
NY: After a fight for a loose ball, Jaylen Brown is on the floor holding his left elbow. He looked in pain, but is staying in the game.
Heat 103, Celtics 98 — 10:22 p.m.
CF: Allie LaForce needs to ask Mazzulla, “What the Pritchard thing all about? He played 24 minutes in the playoffs before tonight.”
NY: Strong start to the fourth quarter: 7-0 run by the Celtics, plus a 24-second violation by the Heat, forcing Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout.
CF: Mazzulla is probably wondering why Spoelstra took a timeout there.
NY: Also, Boston’s run was with Jayson Tatum on the bench.
KT: That floater Jaylen Brown hit right before the timeout was smooth. Just what they needed.
End of third quarter: Heat 103, Celtics 91 — 10:18 p.m.
Heat 103, Celtics 91 | 12:00, fourth quarter
NY: Well, um, things have certainly taken a turn here. I would like to see the “distance of closest defender” stat on some of these Heat jumpers and 3-pointers. And after such a promising first half, when the Celtics played with purpose and aggression, they’ve let up quite a bit. Miami outscored them by 21 points in the third quarter. 21!
KT: Here come the boos. Celtics are down 12 after an atrocious third quarter. Closeouts are still slow. Jimmy Butler is doing Jimmy Butler things. Celtics are falling in love with the three and it is not falling the way they want it to.
The more things change....— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 18, 2023
Celtics were outscored by 21 points in a horrendous third quarter. Boos on ECF Game 1.
CF: The boos are deserved. It’s effort on defense. Heat shot 17 of 26 in the third, including 6 of 9 from 3.
Payton Pritchard subs in — 10:13 p.m.
KT: If Pritchard isn’t going to be shooting it — he’s 0-1 from the field in five minutes — then why on Earth is he in there?
CF: Payton isn’t the answer. They need someone to get a stop.
NY: And the Heat got the switch they wanted: Pritchard on Butler.
Heat 90, Celtics 84 — 10:11 p.m.
Heat 90, Celtics 84 | 2:46, third quarter
KM: While Nicole sitting here has convinced me the Celtics will win this series, it is quarters like these that get me thinking the Celtics still have room to mature.
NY: The Heat sure don’t want to lose a game in which their shooting 58.3 percent form the field and 50 percent from three.
CF: Team Nicole.
NY: Should Joe Mazzulla consider putting Grant Williams in?
CF: Celtics are shooting 50.8/40/82.4 and trail by 6.
I was just thinking how absurd it is to bury Grant.
Grant was pretty good against Bam in the ECF last year too.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 18, 2023
29 points for the Heat this quarter 😬 — 10:05 p.m.
KT: Rob just gifted the Heat a bucket. Don’t try to save the ball underneath your own basket, boys and girls ...
CF: They do that SO much. Did it last year under Ime, too. Just can’t break the habit.
NY: The Heat sure don’t want to lose a game in which their shooting 58.3 percent form the field and 50 percent from three.
Celtics 78, Heat 78 — 10:00 p.m.
Celtics 78, Heat 78 | 6:28, third quarter
The Heat are on a 19-7 run and have tied it up.
We are getting the dueling pianos NBA officiating again. Ed Malloy is making all the calls for Miami. Marc Davis is making all the calls for the Celtics.— Christopher Gasper (@cgasper) May 18, 2023
Is the energy shifting? — 9:55 p.m.
NY: To Chad’s earlier point, the Celtics should learn that the crowd’s energy is directly correlated with how they play. Garden has simmered down a bit now that the Heat have tied it up at 72.
Crowd was audibly yelling to Mazzulla to call a timeout there.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 18, 2023
Celtics 71, Heat 68 — 9:52 p.m.
Celtics 71, Heat 68 | 9:01, third quarter
KT: Speaking of those open threes... Miami just drilled two in a row, narrowing the gap significantly.
Back in action — 9:48 p.m.
The second half is underway.
First half takeaways — 9:40 p.m.
KM: Who has impressed you the most so far? What’s something you want to see the Celtics fix (if anything)?
NY: 1. Cop-out answer, but everyone on the Celtics has been impressive. 2. They just need to keep it up.
KT: The Celtics have given up too many open 3s. Their closeouts need to be more crisp. Miami is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc. I suppose it bodes well for the Celtics that they’re still up by nine. But, if a few more of those start falling ... watch out. But, otherwise, a very strong first half. Well-rounded team performance on both ends of the floor.
CF: Don’t think I would have predicted that the Celtics would be up 10 at halftime with the Heat taking and making more 3s (they’re 7 of 15, the Celtics are 5 of 13.) But then, I wouldn’t have predicted that the Celtics would have 40 points in the paint at the break, either.
I’m with Khari re: the open 3s. Some lackadaisical closeouts. (Looking at you, Jaylen. Shift that energy.)
At the half: Celtics 66, Heat 57 — 9:30 p.m.
NY: An impressive first half for Boston. This game easily could have been a clunker based on this team’s ups and downs, but the Celtics have asserted themselves as the superior team that they are. They’re making smart passes, forcing turnovers, and giving a strong overall effort on both ends.
Marcus Smart finished the half with 10 assists, including a beautiful lob pass to the Rob Williams.
KT: Rob Williams is showing why he belongs back in the starting lineup. At the half, he has 12 points, six boards, and lots of activity on defense. Plus, his ability to catch lob passes for dunks is a thrill.
Tatum: 18 points, 5 rebounds; Williams: 12 points, 6 rebounds; Brogdon: 12 points
Butler: 15 points, 2 rebounds; Lowry: 13 points, 1 rebound
Celtics 62, Heat 52 — 9:27 p.m.
Celtics 62, Heat 52 | 1:45, second quarter
KT: Celtics have forced multiple 24-second violations. They’re making Miami work for everything.
CF: Marcus Smart has nine assists, no turnovers, and one shot attempt. That’s the Good Marcus right there.
Celtics 55, Heat 47 — 9:21 p.m.
Celtics 55, Heat 47 | 4:07, second quarter
KM: An Al Horford corner 3 lights the crowd up, and the Heat quickly take a time out. Feels like a long time since we saw Horford make that shot.
KT: Marcus Smart set a screen for Jaylen Brown, rolled towards the hoop and found an open Al Horford for 3 in the corner — some of the little things that don’t show up on a stat sheet.
NY: Miami’s hot shooting has cooled off, with the Celtics going on a 10-3 run. They were never going to maintain that high of a field-goal percentage.
The Celtics are staying small — 9:18 p.m.
CF: Rob Williams has four offensive rebounds and has 10 points. But the Celtics haven’t gone double bigs much. Horford has played just 9 minutes.
Micah Parsons, Bill Belichick in the house — 9:15 p.m.
This is ... quite a look:
And the crowd went wild for Bill Belichick when he was shown on the jumbotron:
Heat 44, Celtics 42 — 9:13 p.m.
Heat 44, Celtics 42 | 6:33, second quarter
CF: Heat shooting 55 percent so far, Celtics 44 percent.
KT: And-1, Rob. First Celtic to reach double-figures in points tonight.
NY: On back-to-back possessions, the Heat have tried to draw an offensive foul on Jayson Tatum. No luck. Tatum picking up his third midway through the second would be big for Miami.
Foul trouble? — 9:09 p.m.
Tatum really doesn't want to pick up his third. Has let the Heat go right by a couple of times.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 18, 2023
Scoring update — 9:05 p.m.
Heat 38, Celtics 34 | 9:46, second quarter
NY: Kyle Lowry heard me calling him old.
KT: I mean, 3-pointers are a staple of the old-man game.
CF: Might want to get Smart back out there.
NY: Derrick White doing what he does best: the little things. The Heat appeared to have an advantage with Payton Pritchard on Bam Adebayo, but White poked the ball out before Bam could get set, forcing the turnover.
Second quarter is underway — 9:00 p.m.
KT: Did we just see a 360 dog dunk during that break?!
KM: I feel like all of the tricks I’ve taught my dog are now embarrassingly simple.
End of first quarter: Celtics 30, Heat 28 — 8:58 p.m.
Tatum: 7 points, 4 rebounds; Rob Williams: 6 points, 3 rebounds; Brown: 6 points, 2 rebounds
Butler: 12 points, 2 rebounds; Adebayo: 6 points, 3 rebounds
Payton Pritchard makes an appearance — 8:55 p.m.
KT: Payton Pritchard makes an early appearance in the first quarter. Mazzulla’s tight rotation loosens up a little bit.
NY: Payton Pritchard sighting! The Garden cheered when he forced Jimmy Butler to pass, but sighed when Butler ended up scoring on him anyway later in the possession.
The crowd loves Deuce — 8:53 p.m.
NY: Deuce Tatum is making a jumbotron appearance, as part of “Junior Jammers,” a dunk competition for children. I thought Deuce would steal the show, but, honestly, the three contestants brought it. Cute segment.
Scoring update: 2:51, first quarter — 8:50 p.m.
Heat 26, Celtics 25
CF: Cody Zeller’s foul on Smart at 3:55 of the quarter was Miami’s first.
Cody Zeller checks in, lets Jaylen go right over him for a tip-in, then has a pass bounce off his hands, then fouls Jaylen.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 18, 2023
CF: Rough sequence for Jaylen. Late closing on a crosscourt pass from Zeller to Martin. Martin missed the open 3, Jaylen got the rebound, and threw a changeup of an outlet pass that Martin picked off and turned into a driving bucket.
Tatum subs out — 8:46 p.m.
NY: The Celtics aren’t doing the best job defending without fouling, with the Heat in the bonus for the final 5 minutes of the quarter. I suspect Jimmy Butler will try to take advantage.
Celtics up, 16-15 | Key takeaways — 8:42 p.m.
The Celtics called a timeout with 5:55 to play in the first. It’s 16-15, Boston.
KT: Celtics are switching pretty much all the screens, even if that means having a guard like Jaylen Brown on Adebayo. They’re confident their guys can handle a variety of defensive assignments. Highlights the versatility of this group.
CF: Brogdon, who hit a 3 to tie it at 13-13, is my pick to be the unsung hero of this series. He’s going to get open looks against the Heat perimeter defense.
KT: Here’s Brogdon from Monday’s practice on facing Miami’s defense — basically labeled himself the X-factor: “I think I’m actually a great fit to play against a zone defense. I penetrate, I make good decisions with the ball, and then I shoot the ball well. I think we have 5 or 6 of those guys on this team that can do that, so I think adding another one in myself is a huge plus.”
NY: Unsurprisingly, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have 12 of Miami’s first 15 points. Bam’s offensive aggression will be key to a Heat win, but somebody else is going to have to get going.
Interesting comments — 8:38 p.m.
KT: They played Brown’s comments before the game again. Feel like that’s going be a running thing the rest of the way.
CF: Thought it was interesting that Mike Gorman said on the pregame show that Jaylen needs to pick his spots with telling fans to pick up their intensity.
Scoring update — 8:37 p.m.
The crowd goes wild for a Tatum dunk. It’s 10-6 Boston with 8 minutes to play in the first quarter.
Robert Williams is rewarding Joe Mazzulla for sticking to his lineup change. In the first four minutes, he has three offensive rebounds and three baskets.
And we’re off — 8:32 p.m.
One thing about a TNT game is it is going to start on time.
It’s way louder in here than last year — 8:30 p.m.
I guess the crowd is taking Jaylen Brown’s comments to heart.
Our predictions for this series — 8:15 p.m.
Yang: I was torn between Celtics in 5 or 6, but I will lean 5. Boston is just the superior team. Now, could the Celtics check out and make things harder for themselves? Certainly (e.g. Game 5 vs. both Atlanta and Philadelphia). But I would like to think this team can finally take care of business in a tidy fashion.
Thompson: Celtics in 7. If these playoffs has showed us anything, it’s that the Celtics have a tendency to sleepwalk through the start of games and let teams hang around longer than they should. Jimmy Butler will torch them if they let that happen this series. The Celtics will probably have a head scratching loss or two, but their talent will prevail in the end.
Finn: Celtics in 6. Playoff Jimmy will steal one for the Heat. Miami will rock-fight its way to another win. But the Celtics are the more talented team, and that talent will rise to the occasion, just as it did in the final two games against the Sixers.
Jaylen Brown’s message to fans — 8:00 p.m.
By Hayden Bird
With the latest edition of Celtics-Heat set to get underway on Wednesday night in Boston, Jaylen Brown knows his team will take any advantage they can get.
Prior to Game 7 of the previous series, Brown had a direct message for Celtics fans: Be loud.
“Celtics fans, y’all love to call us out, right?” Brown said at a postgame press conference. “I’m gonna call you guys out this time. The energy in the Garden has been OK, at best, all playoffs. Game 7, if you’re there or if you’re not there. If you’re at home, if you watching at a bar, if you watching down the street at a friend’s house, I don’t care. I need you to be up. I need you to come with the energy, because we’re going to need every bit of it. No excuses. We need everybody.”
Boston fans responded, and Brown and his teammates emphatically dismissed the 76ers from the playoffs with a dominant win.
Looking ahead to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Brown had another message for fans: Keep it up.
“Just come with it,” Brown said when asked what he wants from the crowd. “Bring that same energy. Bring the juice. Energy’s about to shift.”
Brown’s “The energy is about to shift” quote is a throwback to his tweet from January 2022 that turned out to be prescient. After a slow start to the season, Boston turned on the gas and finished two wins short of an NBA title.
Which player — on either team — will be the most important to watch tonight? — 7:50 p.m.
Yang: In the first quarter, I will be watching Jayson Tatum. Tatum had started slow in Games 4-6 against Philadelphia — and “slow” would probably be an understatement to describe Game 6. In each of those games, Tatum didn’t make any of his attempts in the first quarter, shooting a combined 0 of 15 from the field. I’m curious to see if he can get going earlier, especially now that the Celtics’ backs aren’t up against the wall.
Thompson: My vote for most important player to watch tonight goes to Robert Williams. Joe Mazzulla is sticking with the double-big lineup after rediscovering it last round against Philadelphia. The Celtics have looked like a different team with him back in the starting lineup. His presence will be crucial in this series because of Miami’s lack of depth. Jimmy Butler is going to get his share of points regardless. Controlling the boards and keeping Bam Adebayo in check limits Miami’s upside severely. He’s the most important guy for the Celtics to disrupt tonight.
Finn: I actually think it’s going to be Jaylen Brown. The Heat will prioritize dealing with Tatum after his 67-points-in-five-quarters tour de force at the end of Game 6 and all of Game 7 against the Sixers. Brown has been so good at getting off to fast starts over the course of the season, and he was the one who brought the energy at the beginning of Game 7 in the last round. The Celtics need that again in Game 1, and I think he’ll deliver it. The Celtics will prioritize dealing with Jimmy Butler, as they should, but the performance of other Heat players tends to vary a lot.
What do we think of this coaching matchup? — 7:30 p.m.
Erik Spoelstra is a great coach. Mazzulla is still learning. How do you think this coaching combo will match up?
Yang: Spoelstra obviously has the edge. His zone defense and inevitable adjustments will likely give the Celtics problems. The problem for the Heat is the steep drop-off on their roster after Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Kyle Lowry and Kevin Love have championship experience, but are aging. Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Duncan Robinson — all undrafted — have developed into strong role players, but Boston’s rotation is far deeper and far more versatile. I question whether the Heat have the personnel to keep up, regardless of Spoelstra’s adjustments.
Thompson: There’s no doubting Spoelstra’s resumé, but Mazzulla has a huge advantage talent advantage on his side. He’d have to mess up pretty bad to negate it, and he’s shown all year that he’s a competent coach so I doubt that he will. Yes, there were a few situational things that he could have cleaned up in the last round. And sure, he could’ve chosen to go big sooner. But, he made the right adjustments in the end and the Celtics got it done.
Win or lose, I’m pinning the Celtics’ results on the players. This core has been together for six years. They’ve beaten Spoelstra’s zone defenses before and if they handle their business, they’ll do it again. Jaylen Brown made a similar point at practice on Monday.
“He’s learned throughout this entire year that has presented him new challenges that he’s ready to take on first and foremost,” Brown said of Mazzulla. “It’s not like he’s by himself. The coaching staff, all the experience that we’ve got on our team has been contributing to what Joe needs and his mindset as well.”
Finn: Before I answer this, are we counting Al Horford and Marcus Smart as the tri-coaches with Mazzulla? The Celtics rookie coach made some important adjustments in Games 6 and 7 against Philly, none more important than playing Rob Williams and Horford together. But it was somewhat concerning that it took so long to do it. Brian Scalabrine mentioned on his SiriusXM show last week that he asked Mazzulla about going double-bigs earlier in the series and he was adamantly against it. The relief of Celtics players when the change was finally made was telling. Spoelstra is the second-best coach in the league to Victor Wembayama’s new boss in San Antonio, and he’ll throw some wrinkles at the Celtics that they’re not expecting. That’s inevitable. The key is how quickly the Celtics coaches — let’s call Horford and Smart lead assistants — will adjust.
Joe Mazzulla loves “The Town.” Yes, the movie with Ben Affleck. — 7:15 p.m.
By Conor Ryan
Joe Mazzulla isn’t exactly one to make headline-snagging statements whenever he takes to the podium.
But the Celtics’ first-year head coach did let his postgame attire do some of the talking after Boston blew out the 76ers, 112-88, in Game 7 on Sunday evening.
While fielding questions from the media, Mazzulla donned a Nike sweatshirt with the words, “Whose car we gonna take?” etched on the front.
Of course, Boston-area cinephiles should recognize the quote immediately as a famous line from the 2010 film, “The Town.”
The back-and-forth between Ben Affleck’s Doug MacRay and Jeremy Renner’s James Coughlin is recognized as one of the most quotable lines from a film set in the Commonwealth, joining other quips such as “How do you like them apples?” and “I’m the guy who does his job, you must be the other guy.”
But Renner’s retort is more than just a creative design for Mazzulla’s new sweatshirt. According to guard Malcolm Brogdon, it’s a rallying cry for a Celtics team buying into one common goal this postseason.
“I think it’s ‘Whose car are we taking?’ I think that’s the saying,” Brogdon told NESN.com’s Sean T. McGuire. “And it’s basically just ride or die for your guys, the guys you’re on the court with, the guys you’re competing with. It’s having the mentality [of] it doesn’t matter what we’re going to get into, we’re going to do it together.”
Even though Mazzulla hasn’t expanded much on the quote in question, he did tip his hand earlier this year about his affinity for the popular film about Charlestown bank robbers.
During a pregame interview back in January, Brian Scalabrine said that Mazzulla watches the film “four times a week.”
When asked how his frequent viewings of “The Town” relates to the Celtics, Mazzulla answered, “I guess just a mindset. A Boston mindset.”
‘Man, you’re in the Garden with me. You can go anywhere you want.’ — 7:00 p.m.
On Sunday, a basketball that started the day in the TD Garden equipment room became a keepsake after Jayson Tatum erupted for 51 points using it in the Celtics’ Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in their Eastern Conference semifinal. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck presented the ball to Tatum afterward, but the star knew it would be more meaningful to someone else.
Hanging out with Tatum during the post-game celebrations was 10-year-old Xavier Goncalves, who has undergone three surgeries to remove a cancerous tumor from his eye, 24 rounds of chemotherapy, and months of radiation treatments.
Over the last two months, Tatum and Goncalves have become friends. Tatum has invited him to games, exchanged text messages with him, and visited him at his home. So pulling Xavier into the locker-room revelry and giving him the ball after the most impressive performance of Tatum’s life was an easy choice.
“I could tell he didn’t really know what to do,” Tatum said. “I was like, ‘Man, you’re in the Garden with me. You can go anywhere you want. Come on in.’ "
Mazzulla confirms Williams is starting — 6:50 p.m.
Joe Mazzulla confirmed he is sticking with the double-big lineup for Game 1, noting that Robert Williams brings defensive versatility and a lob threat on the offensive end. Asked by a Heat reporter why he felt comfortable divulging his starters prior to the mandated deadline, Mazzulla said, “Someone else announced it for me.”
They want a ring for Al — 6:45 p.m.
By Nicole Yang
As the Celtics prepared for their Eastern Conference finals rematch against Miami, they seemed a little too casual for Al Horford’s liking during Tuesday’s practice.
“There was a point today in practice where guys were — it was a little light, you know, practice was light and guys were a little loose,” guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “Al brought us together and told us to tighten it up. I think it’s those constant reminders from our leader that’s going to help us stay poised, start the series poised, and really lock in.”
The 36-year-old Horford, according to Brogdon, has served as the team’s guiding force throughout the year.
Horford, now in his 16th NBA season and fifth in Boston, is the most experienced player on the Celtics roster. He first signed with the team in 2016, the same year the Celtics drafted Jaylen Brown, and returned in 2021 after brief stints in Philadelphia and Oklahoma City.
Upon Horford’s return, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens highlighted his leadership. Teammates and coaches, both former and current, have echoed that sentiment.
“You know you have a special leader when guys like Jayson Tatum, a top-five player in the world, and Jaylen Brown, another top player in the world, listen to him,” Brogdon said. “They want his feedback. They want his leadership. So Al’s been that special leader for us all season.”
Horford, who initially was set to become a free agent after this season, signed a two-year extension with the Celtics last December. He is now under contract through 2025.
Even in the later stage of his career, Horford has proven to be an effective contributor on both ends of the court. Though his 3-point shooting has slumped a bit during the playoffs, he finished the regular season with career-best numbers, knocking down 44.6 percent of his shots from behind the arc. He also has maintained a strong presence defensively, as evidenced by his showing against 76ers center Joel Embiid in the second round.
But Horford is still without a ring — and his teammates are well aware.
“Al has given this league so much,” Brogdon said. “He’s given this organization so much, these guys so much. I think a big piece for us is to want to see him go out on top, go out with a championship, go out with a ring, because he’s more deserving than anybody.”
It’s a Garden party — 6:30 p.m.
North Station is packed with fans sporting their green. The vendors are out selling their “Beat the Heat” shirts. The vibes are good at TD Garden, which is a good time to let you know about Garden Party.
Garden Party is your newsletter companion for the NBA playoffs. Mid-morning each day, the Globe will be in your inbox with the latest news, insights, and analysis. And we’ll also be sharing things to do for fans in the area. You can sign up here.
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.Follow her @nicolecyang. Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @GlobeChadFinn. Khari Thompson can be reached at email@example.com. Katie McInerney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @k8tmac.