Jimmy Butler, Heat Surge in 2nd Half to Rally Past Celtics, Take 2-0 Series Lead

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2020

Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo (13), Derrick Jones Jr., left rear, Jimmy Butler (22) and Goran Dragic (7) celebate after their NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Miami Heat continue to roll in the bubble.

Miami defeated the Boston Celtics 106-101 in Thursday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Walt Disney World Resort and now lead the series 2-0. Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo led the way with impressive performances for a Heat team that is 10-1 in the playoffs and two wins away from its first NBA Finals appearance since 2014.

As for Boston, solid showings from Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were not enough to prevent a daunting 2-0 deficit. It will now need to win four of the next five games to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 after blowing a 13-point halftime advantage.

              

Notable Player Stats

  • Goran Dragic, G, MIA: 25 PTS, 5 AST, 3 REB
  • Bam Adebayo, F, MIA: 21 PTS, 10 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK
  • Duncan Robinson, G, MIA: 18 PTS, 4 AST, 6-of-12 3PT
  • Jimmy Butler, F, MIA: 14 PTS, 4 STL, 4 REB, 3 AST
  • Kemba Walker, G, BOS: 23 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
  • Jayson Tatum, F, BOS: 21 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST
  • Jaylen Brown, G, BOS: 21 PTS, 6 REB
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Butler, Dragic Take Over in Winning Time to Finish Dominant Second Half

The focus is always on Jimmy Butler and Adebayo when it comes to the Heat and with good reason.

After all, they are the All-Stars and just won Game 1 at the end of overtime for their team when Butler notched a go-ahead and-1 and Adebayo blocked Tatum's dunk attempt on one of the most impressive defensive plays in recent playoff history.

However, it was Duncan Robinson or bust in the early going. He drilled four three-pointers in the first quarter alone and kept his team within striking distance in an otherwise slow start.

Who knows where Miami would have been without him as it fell behind by 13 at halftime, but something clearly clicked following the intermission. The Heat outscored Boston 37-17 in the third quarter in a stunning turnaround, as Kelly Olynyk banked home a three, Butler drew an offensive foul on Tatum and Dragic blew past his defender for a layup to give Miami a seven-point lead heading to the fourth.

It was a dominant performance, much of which stemmed from pick-and-rolls with Adebayo. It may have been a simple approach, but the Celtics had no answers for the big man's run toward the basket for dunks and short shots.

Boston battled back and took a five-point lead following a Walker three with less than five minutes remaining, but that's when Dragic and Butler took over.

Butler assisted an Adebayo basket, tallied a steal and dunk, and drove for his own basket to tie it. From there, Dragic drilled free throws and an incredible step-back three-pointer before Butler stole an inbounds pass and found Jae Crowder for a layup.

Just like that, Miami's lead was seven. Brown brought Boston back with a couple of threes, but Dragic scored and Butler finished the game with free throws in a head-turning two-way performance with the outcome hanging in the balance.

           

Turnovers, Abysmal Second Half Doom Celtics

Tatum has been brilliant throughout the playoffs, but the Celtics are going to need more than just him to win the title.

Marcus Smart provided the primary support in Game 1, but that was not enough in large part because Walker was 6-of-19 from the field and 1-of-9 from three-point range. In fact, he was so bad he said, "I'm just playing terrible, to be honest … I have to make better decisions. I just have to make shots overall," per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

He wasted no time doing just that in Game 2, mixing in a combination of three-pointers, transition opportunities and mid-range looks all while battling for boards and setting the tone for his team.

It was far from just him as the Celtics built a commanding double-digit lead. Tatum didn't settle for jumpers and attacked the lane, Smart found his touch from the outside and even Enes Kanter provided a scoring burst off the bench with soft touch around the rim.

However, that balanced offense went completely missing in the third quarter when Miami switched to a matchup zone and the Celtics started forcing the issue. They turned it over seven times in the third alone and saw what appeared to be a straightforward victory turn into pressing concern for Brad Stevens' team.

While the Celtics stormed back to take the lead in the fourth, turnovers cost them again with Butler notching multiple key steals in the closing minutes. They couldn't even get an inbounds pass in at a crucial moment and finished the game with 20 turnovers.

That is not going to cut it against a balanced team like Miami.

           

What's Next?

Game 3 of the series is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET.