The Miami Heat took control of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 Tuesday night, 118-107. In the win, Heat superstar Jimmy Butler dominated the second half, and in particular the third quarter. During the third frame, Butler outscored the Celtics by himself, 17-14. But the job is not done. Holding home court means you need to win both Game 1 and Game 2. Boston is likely to get Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart, back for Game 2. Smart injured his foot in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks and did not play in Game 1.
Boston is likely to play with a sense of urgency. They know full well their odds drop dramatically if they fall down 2-0 in the series. Jayson Tatum had a solid Game 1 with 29 points, but Jaylen Brown got most of his 24 points in garbage time. He was mostly ineffective against the Heat defense. That will be another key point of emphasis for Miami as they look to build on their Game 1 win.
So, let's take a look at our Miami Heat three bold predictions for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Celtics.
3 Predictions for Heat in Game 2 vs. Celtics
1. Bam Adebayo More Impactful Offensively
In Game 1, Heat center Bam Adebayo had a huge impact defensively. He blocked four shots and changed countless others. The Celtics struggled to get good looks in the paint with him roaming.
Bam Adebayo's HUGE block against Jaylen Brown 🚫pic.twitter.com/ZGFnanSASz
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 18, 2022
But on the other end of the floor, the Heat big man did not have much of an impact. Maybe that's because Jimmy Butler was so dominant, we don't know. But I would expect the Celtics to try and do a better job on Butler in Game 2. At one point in the game, the Celtics were crushing the Heat in the paint. That will need to change for Miami in Game 2 and it starts with Adebayo.
Recent reports have Celtics center Al Horford still not clearing health and safety protocols. That leaves Boston in a tough spot once again down low. Robert Williams returned and played excellent. But he clearly did not have his sea legs under him, as he looked gassed during the third quarter and only logged 28 minutes.
The Heat should look to get more good looks down low. Adebayo is a freak athletically and should be able to get good looks at the basket. Expect a more active version of him offensively, and on the glass as well.
2. Jimmy Butler Held To Single Digit Free Throws
This might not sound like much of a bold prediction, but it really is. The Heat superstar went 17-for-18 at the charity stripe in Game 1. A lot of that came during the game-changing third quarter where Miami outscored Boston 39-14.
But the Celtics were not the best defensive team in the NBA for no reason. I fully expect them take the ball out of Butler's hands when they can. Clearly, Celtics coach Ime Udoka thought they could guard Butler one-on-one without help. After Game 1, I would expect the Celtics to treat Butler similar to the way they did Kevin Durant in the first round.
Kevin Durant on Celtics defense this series: "They're playing two or three guys on me off the ball… I see a few of their guys around me every time I get the ball." pic.twitter.com/sCQk96sENH
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 21, 2022
If the Celtics were facing regular season Jimmy Butler, the strategy they employed in Game 1 might have worked. But this isn't the regular season. Butler has now scored 40 points five times in his playoff career, all with the Heat. He has never done it in the regular season.
3. Heat Win A Nail Biter
It's highly unlikely the Celtics allow a 39-14 quarter in Game 2. That was a bit of an aberration. The other three quarters, the Celtics outscored the Heat. Boston has more playmakers and guys that can get their own shot. Plus, getting Smart back for Game 2 is massive. Not just because of his play, but he is also the vocal and emotional leader of the team.
But one thing that bodes well for Miami is the fact that the Celtics appear reliant on the three-ball still. They shot almost 300 of them in their seven-game series with the Bucks. But Milwaukee was one of the worst teams defending the three in the NBA this year. Meanwhile, the Heat led the league in three-point defense.
That showed in Game 1, as Boston only hit 11 out of 34 from downtown for 32 percent. That's an acceptable range for Miami. Grant Williams, who had a massive Game 7 hitting seven triples, seems to think he is Stephen Curry now and is jacking them up at will. But Miami is not Milwaukee.
This game should be close and come down to the final few minutes. Even if Butler does not drop 40 again, he knows how to make the right play. I would expect Tyler Herro to have a big game shooting, knocking down some clutch three's late as Miami takes a 2-0 series lead to Boston.