Good afternoon, folks. Pleasantries between teammates were not being exchanged after a tumultuous loss. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Celtics blow another big lead, trail Heat 2-0 in Eastern Conference Finals
The Boston Celtics forfeited another double-digit lead and it wasn’t even their biggest implosion of a tortuous evening.
The Miami Heat trailed Boston by as many as 17 points in Game 2–just two days after completing a comeback effort in Game 1 that saw them overcome a 14-point 4th quarter hole–but never got too far down on themselves. They were 9-1 in the postseason coming into Thursday night’s game and possessed a seemingly innate ability to thrive with their backs against the wall. Another double-digit deficit wasn’t something they weren’t already familiar with by the third round of the NBA Playoffs. Down by 13 points at the intermission, Bam Adebayo decided it was time to go on the attack. He wasn’t swatting any Jayson Tatum dunk attempts, but he was the main source of offense for a Heat rally that ultimately put them in a commanding 2-0 series lead with a 106-101 win. Miami is now 10-1 in the Bubble playoffs. Here’s how they got there.
Both teams started the night out confident in their jumpers. Miami skirted out to a 13-11 lead not even five minutes in the game, with Adebayo quickly recording three assists during that span, linking up over and over (and over) again with Heat guard Duncan Robinson, who was a scorching hot 4-6 from deep in the first quarter. The back-and-forth affair would continue throughout the period, with Celtics big man Enes Kanter receiving some surprise minutes after sitting out all of Game 1. Coming into the series, I didn’t expect much of Kanter, considering he hadn’t been all that productive in the postseason until this point, but his head coach Brad Stevens found a matchup that would work in Kanter’s favor and the former Wildcat did some heavy damage. He finished the night with nine points and six rebounds, with all but one of those boards coming during his 10-minute spurt in the first half. Kanter connected on all four of his shot attempts, gobbling up every loose ball that came off the glass. His efforts allowed Boston to take a 46-37 advantage by the time he was sent back to the bench.
And Boston didn’t lose any fire once Kanter left the floor. They continued to pile it on Miami, building the lead to 17 points before settling on a 60-47 halftime score.
Coming out of the locker room, Adebayo woke up.
The first-time All-Star made it his personal mission to bring down the backboard during the third quarter. Adebayo went 7-8 from the field in that period for 15 points, nearly outscoring the Celtics (17) himself in that 12 minutes. Five of his buckets came in the form of ferocious dunks on the rim (Boston only made four total field goals in the 3rd) and he energized himself and the Heat to a lethal comeback run. Miami had already trimmed the lead down to 71-67 before Kanter came in for his second stint of the game. Unfortunately for the Turkish big man, this particular matchup against Adebayo didn’t do him any favors. Kanter fouled Adebayo on an and-1 dunk and only managed one rebound in his nearly three-minute spurt before being forced back to the bench. But it was too late for the Celtics, anyways; Miami rattled off a 12-3 run to close the third quarter, outscored Boston 37-17 in the period, and led 84-77 heading into the final 12 minutes.
But in typical playoff fashion, the game still came down to the wire. Boston actually landed a strong counterpunch out of the break, burning off a 15-2 run that put them ahead 94-89 with under five minutes remaining. The Miami offense was struggling heavily until Adebayo and Butler hit a few timely buckets to tie the game at 95 with just three minutes left. That’s when Boston collapsed on–and later off–the court. Heat point guard Gordan Dragic scored five straight points while every Celtic player not named Jaylen Brown failed to make another shot. Brown did drill two key triples to keep the game tight in the closing seconds, and he had a chance to tie the game with 15 ticks on the clock but came up just short. Butler nailed a pair of free throws to ice it away and Miami took a 2-0 lead in the process.
Adebayo’s evening culminated with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block on 10-16 shooting from the floor. Heat rookie Tyler Herro was rather quiet after a solid Game 1 outing, making just one of his eight shot attempts from beyond the arc. However, he still managed to record 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and one steal, making his impact felt even when his jumper wasn’t falling.
Following another unfortunate late-game breakdown, the Celtics turmoil boiled over behind closed doors. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Boston teammates, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, had to be separated by other teammates inside the locker room as emotions and tempers apparently hit their limit. Loud screaming and arguing were reportedly heard from outside of the locker room with objects being thrown in the background. Smart was apparently the “instigator” and got into verbal arguments with assistant coaches, as well. The tension was diffused before anything became physical, according to reports.
“Sources told The Athletic that Smart stormed into the Celtics postgame locker room saying that other players needed to be held accountable and not simply point the finger toward him when things are going wrong. As Smart continued and his voice grew louder, sources said Brown snapped back and shouted that Celtics players must stay together and that their actions must come as a team, not individually, and that Smart needed to cool off. Those sources added Smart had verbal exchanges with a couple of the assistant coaches during the game.” [via The Athletic]
Despite the meltdowns, Boston now must rewire itself for a must-win Game 3 situation on Saturday. Miami is 10-0 in playoff scenarios under head coach Erik Spoelstra when his team goes up 2-0 in a series.
Other notes from the NBA
- Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has reportedly won his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. What round of the playoffs is he in again?
|Bam Adebayo (MIA)||106-101 W @ BOS||21||10-16 (0-0)||10||4||2||1||2||+8||35|
|Tyler Herro (MIA)||106-101 W @ BOS||11||4-12 (1-8)||9||5||1||0||3||-1||32|
|Enes Kanter (BOS)||101-106 L vs. MIA||9||4-4 (0-0)||6||0||0||0||1||+7||10|
TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE
9:00 (TNT): Nuggets (Murray) @ Lakers (Davis, Rondo) [Game 1]