Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) in the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series in Boston, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Can the Celtics Overcome Their Home Playoff Woes? Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 Preview

In the NBA, seldom does a team struggle to close out home playoff games and still manage to reach the conference finals of the playoffs. Thunderous roars, rowdy fans and familiar surroundings provide a large advantage for teams competing at home in the postseason. In the playoffs, home teams have won 65% of all games since 1984. Though, the Boston Celtics have performed well below the 65% average so far in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

The Celtics were defeated in Game 1 against the Miami Heat 123-116 Wednesday at home, marking the Celtics second series opened with a loss. The loss worsened Boston’s home playoff record to 4-4 in the playoffs. A .500 playoff record at home is uncanny for team with saturated playoff experience. The Celtics are the only remaining team in the playoffs with a home loss. The Nuggets, Lakers and Heat are all unbeaten on home court.

Boston has the opportunity on Friday to subjugate its woes and even the Eastern Conference Finals series at one game apiece before the teams migrate southward to Miami for Game 3.

A couple of key focal points need to be stressed by Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla in the Game 2 matchup. Otherwise, the No. 8 seed Miami Heat could substantially improve their opportunity to make a second trip to the NBA Finals within the last three years.

Limit Bam Adebayo

Miami starting center Bam Adebayo has been an offensive and defensive centerpiece for the Heat throughout their playoff run, especially in Game 1. Adebayo is quick compared to the traditional NBA center. The 6-foot-9 All-Star is able to guard on both the perimeter and in the paint, providing some versatility difficult for the Celtics to counter. Adebayo’s unique defensive ability makes it challenging for the Celtics to utilize the pick-and-roll as Adebayo can efficiently switch on and off players without letting up much distance.

Moreover, Adebayo has been extremely efficient offensively for Miami. The center scored 20 points on 9-13 shooting while securing eight rebounds and dishing five assists in Game 1. Adebayo has averaged 18 points, nine boards and four assista in 12 games for the Heat. He’s been an immense help offensively for Miami who lost All-Star Tyler Herro in Game 1 of the opening round against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Find A Way to Subdue ‘Playoff Jimmy’

Miami Heat guard Jimmy Butler seems to take the league by storm each year in the NBA playoffs. The six-time All-Star helped lead the Heat to the NBA Finals in 2020 and has averaged 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the playoffs so far.

In the three rounds Butler has played, no team has found a way to stop him. The Celtics are likely to assign Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart to Butler. He held Butler to just two points on eight possessions throughout Game 1.

Keep Robert Williams in the Starting Lineup

Celtics center Robert Williams has always started his playoff games off the bench. But Mazzulla made the recent decision to move Williams to the starting-five in place of guard Derrick White at power forward. Since making the switch, Williams has excelled, acting as a major defensive threat for opponents while also sharing an increased load on offense.

Williams’ minutes increased to above 25 in each of the three games he’s started, averaging 10.3 points and 8.6 rebounds when playing above the 25 minute threshold throughout the playoffs.

Celtics Look Towards Its Stars to Stay Active

Boston has a rare tandem of scorers in forward Jayson Tatum and guard Jaylen Brown. Both players have the ability to score above 30 points on any given night. When both players click, the Celtics are seemingly unbeatable.

In Wednesday’s 123-116 loss to the Heat, the Celtics took a nine-point lead into halftime. However, they were outscored by the Heat by 21 points in the third quarter. The 12 minutes of play marked the only quarter in the game that Miami outscored Boston. Tatum and Brown scored just 11 points total during the period. In Smart’s words, the shift in momentum was easily explained by the Heat’s persistent efforts.

Game two of the ECF begins 8:30 p.m. Friday at T.D. Garden in Boston.

About Luke Adragna

Check Also

NBA Legend Jerry West dies at 86

The NBA community mourns the loss of Hall of Famer Jerry West, who passed away …