June 28, 2022, 15:57

Celtics @ Heat – Game 2: Can Jimmy Butler repeat success of Game 1?

Celtics @ Heat – Game 2: Can Jimmy Butler repeat success of Game 1?

Jimmy Butler doesn’t like being a called a scorer.

Never mind that the moniker seems appropriate. He’s averaging nearly 30 points per game in this postseason, has reached the 40-point mark three times in his last 10 games after having zero such regular season games since 2017, and carried the Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

But say “scorer” to him, and he will scoff in disdain.

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“I’ve been a quote-unquote scorer at other points in my career, and it didn’t work out too well for me,” Butler said.

Things have been working out just fine so far in this postseason for Butler and the top-seeded Heat, who’ll look to take a 2-0 lead in the East title series when they play host to the second-seeded Celtics again on Thursday night. It won’t be easy: The Celtics are 3-0 after losses in these playoffs, winning those bounceback games by an average of 14.7 points and getting two of those victories on the road.

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Highlights of Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat

The Celtics are hoping to have defensive player of the year Marcus Smart (mid-foot sprain) back for Game 2, listing him as probable for Thursday night. Boston was also without forward Al Horford (health and safety protocols) for Game 1 – he is doubtful for Game 2. And coach Ime Udoka was sick on Wednesday with a non-COVID illness.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Celtics center Daniel Theis said Wednesday as his team gathered for a film session.

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The Heat have some injury issues as well: Point guard Kyle Lowry will miss his eighth game of the playoffs with a hamstring issue. His replacement, Gabe Vincent – the Heat are 7-0 in these playoffs when he starts – is questionable with a hamstring issue of his own, as is fellow starting guard Max Strus.

Game 1 was a 118-107 loss for the Celtics on Tuesday night, though Boston pointed out after the game that the combined scores of the first, second and fourth quarters added up to Celtics 93, Heat 79.

That pesky third quarter, however, counted.

A 39-14 romp by Miami in those 12 minutes – Butler had 17 points in that quarter alone, outscoring the Celtics by himself – turned the whole game around, and the Heat never saw their lead trimmed to less than nine in the final quarter.

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The Miami Heat improved drastically after half time, as a massive third propelled the hosts to victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1

“Expect us to play better,” said Boston forward Jayson Tatum, who had six turnovers in that pivotal quarter. “Expect myself to play a lot better.”

In other words, he’s expecting to get to a higher level.

Butler is already there.

He’s averaging 29.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.3 steals in these playoffs on 53.5 per cent shooting. Since the NBA began charting each of those statistics, nobody has finished a postseason averaging so much in each category while shooting that well. And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has a simple reason why Butler is in this space.

“Heightened attention to detail,” Spoelstra said. “But again, I don’t want to get in a long dissertation about it. If you’re driven by competition, and the stakes get raised, you’re going to raise your level of play. It’s not about trying to get bigger numbers. It’s about doing what’s required. And this level is high level, this competition, and he senses it, and he knows it. He feels it.”

Butler went 17 for 18 from the foul line in Game 1. The only player to make, or take, more free throws in a game against Boston this season was Kevin Durant – who was 18 for 20 for Brooklyn in Game 2 of the first-round series between the Celtics and Nets.

“He’s comfortable,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown said of Butler. “He’s very comfortable right now, and we’ve got to do a better job of breaking that rhythm that he’s in. That’s it. We’ve got to take the challenge.”

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Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler says his team got the job done as they progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals after beating the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6

Butler’s last 40-point game in the regular season came on January 25, 2017, for Chicago – three franchises and more than five years ago. But he’s had five such games in the playoffs since coming to Miami, the first two coming in the bubble two years ago when he carried the Heat to the NBA Finals. The other three have been in the last month, when he’s carrying the Heat again, despite his insistence that he’s not carrying anyone.

“I don’t care if it’s a big stage or a little stage or who is watching,” Butler said. “I do what I do for my family, for my people, for my organisation and for my teammates. That’s it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big stage, home or away. I know why I do what I do.”

Boston Celtics @ Miami Heat – Game 2 (live on Sky Sports Arena & Main Event from 1.30am overnight)

Bottom line: The Miami Heat host the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals with a 1-0 lead in the series. The Heat won the last matchup 118-107 on May 18 led by 41 points from Jimmy Butler, while Jayson Tatum scored 29 points for the Celtics.

The Heat have gone 35-17 against Eastern Conference teams. Miami is eighth in the Eastern Conference scoring 110.0 points while shooting 46.7 per cent from the field.

The Celtics are 33-19 against Eastern Conference opponents. Boston is ninth in the Eastern Conference with 11.1 fast break points per game led by Jaylen Brown averaging 3.2.

Top performers: Tyler Herro is scoring 20.7 points per game and averaging 5.0 rebounds for the Heat. Butler is averaging 29.1 points and 8.2 rebounds over the last 10 games for Miami.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler shoots from the free-throw line during the second half of Game 1 against the Boston Celtics

Tatum is scoring 26.9 points per game with 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the Celtics. Brown is averaging 22.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 47.5 per cent over the last 10 games for Boston.

Last 10 games: The Miami Heat have gone 7-3, averaging 106.6 points, 42.0 rebounds, 21.8 assists, 8.1 steals and 3.9 blocks per game while shooting 45.9 per cent from the field. Their opponents have averaged 98.3 points per game.

The Boston Celtics have gone 6-4, averaging 107.1 points, 41.6 rebounds, 24.7 assists, 6.5 steals and 6.5 blocks per game while shooting 44.7 per cent from the field. Their opponents have averaged 101.7 points.

Injuries: Kyle Lowry is out with an injured hamstring for the Miami Heat. For the visiting Celtics the Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart is day to day (foot) and Sam Hauser is out (shoulder).

The rush of live NBA Playoffs games continues on Sky Sports this week – see the list of games here and subscribe to watch the live action.

Sourse: skysports.com

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