1. There are not many voices in the world like the raucous crowd at home in the playoffs that was immediately silenced by an early game dominated by the away team. What the Heat did at the start wasn’t quite the same as what LeBron James did in Boston’s Game 6 years ago, but it wasn’t too far off. The Heat got off to a perfect start to the playoffs with a 39-18 first-quarter win. After Kyle Lowry came back, his impact on the tempo of the offense, both in the open field and in the half, was immediately apparent when he drove a 3-pointer for Max Struth, and then again with him. A traditional hit followed up a couple of offenses — an early pass to Jimmy Butler.
But aside from Lowry and some hot 3-pointers, what’s really driving the offense is Bam Adebayo’s scoring as high as he’s ever been. Adebayo made 5 of 6 shots and 8 of 12 in the first half, and his aggressiveness made Boston’s defense noticeably unbalanced. All said. Boston’s defensive rating of 131.9 was the second-worst in their capitulation since Christmas. It’s hard for the Heat, or any team, to score better than that. In the end, the opening volley provided a big enough lead to give Miami a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Celtics made their expected comeback, and then some. This is not enough. The Heat built up their physicality on the defensive end, found enough shots — Max Struth and Adebayo both hit huge jumpers after Boston came close to a point — and responded one by one. A momentum building. A big part of the game was decided by the Heat’s 23-8 turnover win and 22 more shots than their opponents, but that’s more than anything else. Everything this team keeps saying, they’re Saturday night.
2. Having an All-Star point guard who could help him build and relieve some of his playmaking responsibilities would certainly help, and Eric Spoelstra was clearly calling his number from the start, but it wasn’t anything but Ade Anyone other than Bayeux. He didn’t just roll to the rim and catch the lob, he went straight to the chest of one of Al Horford’s great guards and went deep into the paint.
Adebayo had 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four steals and one block, but it was his 22 shots that really stood out. Adebayo has never taken so many shots in an NBA game before. He’s received a lot of outside criticism over the years for constantly balancing being aggressive and being the central figure in the Heat’s offense, which is often what the Heat desperately need. He found his balance tonight, being on the road at the most important moment of the season with a hostile crowd at hand. Like his Game 6 against Boston a few years ago, these are the games you’ll remember the most.
3. there are moments and then there are time. While Miami was quiet among the crowd in the first quarter, it was the opposite in the third. Boston is definitely making a comeback, but this comeback was interrupted by Marcus Smart, whose right ankle appeared to fall to the ground on a rebound. Smart, seemingly in pain, returned to the locker room without putting any weight on his ankle. Then, return. First, a loud murmur as video boards showed him running down the hallway, a growl as he walked over to the scorer’s desk to check that he was back in the game, and when he hit a 3-pointer, Boston’s faithful Fans might describe it as a religious experience The left corner brings Boston within 10 minutes. That’s for sure, you see it every day. Although Jayson Tatum had a bad shooting night, going 3-of-14 from the field, he almost repeated it after the quarter with a shoulder injury.
This all makes the Miami counter even more impressive. Butler missed the game with an inflamed right knee, the Heat succumbed to some physical defense — Victor Oladipo made some excellent one-on-one stops in Butler’s absence — and enough Shots pushed the lead back to 15 or even 25-25 in the third quarter as all the frenetic energy drained from the building. Great response to a great moment, the way the Heat took away the meaning of the game with the way they shut it down and foreshadowed how the fourth quarter would play out and the Heat would take what the Celtics could. All that is offered, and then fight back right away.