RECAP: Heat rally late behind Butler to take 2-0 lead against Boston

May 19, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) leaves the floor after defeating the Boston Celtics in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
May 19, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) leaves the floor after defeating the Boston Celtics in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Heat came back from 12 points down to win Game 2 in Boston and take a 2-0 lead in the series.

“You pushed the Jimmy button.”

“You shouldn’t have did that.”

That would be my message to one Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics. After sinking a three-pointer to give Boston a 96-87 lead with 6:37 left in the 4th quarter and jawing at Jimmy Butler, Butler and the Miami Heat responded in kind, finishing the game with a 24-9 run and leaving the Boston crowd stunned. It was yet another truly baffling 4th quarter for the Celtics, and Miami now holds a commanding 2-0 lead in the series, having won both games on the road.

Butler finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals while Bam Adebayo nearly had a triple double, putting up a Jokic-like line of 22 points, 17 rebounds, and 9 assists (with just one turnover). Caleb Martin added a playoff career-high 25 points off the bench. Boston was led by Jayson Tatum, who had 34 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists, while Jaylen Brown added 16 but struggled with his shooting, going 7-23.

My stray thoughts:

  • The game taken as a whole was quite bizarre, full of lengthy runs and droughts for both clubs. Miami looked to be in total control early on in the game, but as soon as Bam subbed out, Boston took the reigns and ended up winning the 1st quarter before quickly ballooning their lead to double digits in the early portions of the 2nd.
  • Thanks to some early Caleb Martin buckets, Miami regathered themselves and, somehow, managed to take a 4-point lead into halftime. Martin was spectacular, attacking closeouts and contorting his body for important layups throughout the night
  • The 3rd quarter, a sore spot for Boston in Game 1 and even some Heat playoff matchups in prior years, was a quarter the Celtics ended up winning handily, outscoring Miami 33-21. Jayson Tatum was electric, scoring 15 in the period. Again, if not for some Martin baskets, the game could’ve gotten totally out of hand.
  • Notably, part of what sparked this Celtics 3rd quarter was a lineup change. Joe Mazzulla axed the two big lineup that started the game, moving Robert Williams to the bench and bringing in Derrick White to start.
  • This left Kevin Love on a bit of an island, and the big man had minimal impact tonight, going scoreless with 5 rebounds in just 15 minutes.
  • The Cody Zeller minutes are now flatly a problem for Miami. Zeller (2 points, 6 rebounds; -8 in 10 minutes), is not being defended by Boston on the outside, is getting outmuscled in the interior, and has been frequently targeted on defense whenever he’s on the floor. The veteran deserves a lot of credit for joining the team late and immediately contributing to their regular season push, but the last two rounds of the playoffs are just simply no place for backup centers of almost any kind.
  • Bam Adebayo can’t be expected to play 48 minutes, but you wonder if Miami adjusts the power rotation, especially with Boston seeming to now stagger their two bigs instead of playing them together. I have been surprised that Haywood Highsmith hasn’t seen the floor yet in this series.
  • Speaking of Bam, he was incredible tonight, putting together one of the best playoff games of his career. Though he shot 7-17, the fact that he was willing to attack the Celtics frontline over and over again was a testament to how far he’s come along. Bam went a perfect 8-8 from the foul line and was monstrous on the glass. Many of his 9 assists were pinpoint bounce passes to cutters, including Duncan Robinson, who emerged to score 15 off the bench (6-9 shooting 3-6 from three). And, it goes without saying, his defense on just about every core Celtic player was peerless as it often is.
  • The Heat’s point guard play was an issue today, but credit to Gabe Vincent, who made a huge play late. Vincent (9 points, 2-8 shooting) sunk a stepback jumper with 35 seconds left to give Miami a 4 point lead and then sunk two clutch free throws with 19 seconds to again get Miami a 4-point cushion. Vincent finished with no assists, while Kyle Lowry went scoreless (0-5 shooting), with 5 assists.
  • Before his late-game points, Vincent committed an inexcusable three-point foul on Tatum with Miami up 5 and there being under a minute left in the game. Thankfully Vincent was unshaken by the moment. He truly is the Jimmy Butler-era Heat’s version of Mario Chalmers.
  • Returning to the Grant Williams-Jimmy Butler kerfuffle. Coach Mazzulla opted to give Williams some minutes tonight after keeping him out of the rotation for most of the playoffs, and, perhaps emboldened, Williams started yapping at Jimmy Butler soon after sinking the aforementioned three in the 4th quarter.
  • Butler, who had been having a quiet-ish game to that point, immediately targeted Williams and hit an and-1 runner to get Miami back within 6. In between his free throw, Butler and Williams were assessed technicals for getting in each others’ faces and hurling God knows what obscenities at each other.
  • It was curtains for Boston at that point, as the Jimmy button had been firmly pushed. Butler repeatedly targeted Williams and scored six quick points on the overmatched Celtic, who was unceremoniously subbed out late. Overall, Miami went on an 18-4 run from that point on and Boston never got closer than down 2 while the teams went on to trade free throws
  • Miami shot 9-26 from three while Boston was 10-35. It was unsurprising that Miami came back down to earth after their blistering Game 1, but Miami’s been fortunate to see Boston misfire as they have. Jaylen Brown, shooting 44.7% from three and averaging 24.4 points in the playoffs, has struggled with his jumper against Miami. Brown has a litany of huge scoring outbursts against the Heat on his resume, so you wonder if he’ll snap out of it soon
  • Bill Simmons has suggested Jaylen’s hand has been bothering him, but there isn’t much recent reporting corroborating it. He had a hand injury that was reported on back in April, but had no problem shooting over Atlanta and Philadelphia.
  • Turnovers were again a bit of an issue for Boston, committing 15 for the game, while Miami had just 10.

Game 3 is set for Sunday at 8:30 PM on TNT.