MIAMI — Miami entered these Eastern Conference Finals in the unusual predicament of being both a No. 1 seed and a clear underdog in the series, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
On Tuesday night, the Heat showed everybody what it can do with those odds.
Buoyed by a 22-2 stampede to start the third quarter, the Heat reversed momentum suddenly and adamantly, and dispatched the Celtics, 118-107, to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
As usual this postseason, Jimmy Butler spearheaded Miami with 41 points and across-the-board contributions, including exceptional defense. It was his third 40-point game in 12 playoff games this spring.
“I continue to play basketball the right way,” he said.
And the Heat did marvelous work in the second half on Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum, who scored 21 in the first half but shot just 1 for 7 with six turnovers in the second half.
Down 62-54 at the break, the Heat followed its worst defensive half of the postseason (including 60 percent Boston shooting), with a defensive clinic to open the third, electrifying a sellout crowd at FTX Arena.
The Celtics shot 0 for 7 from the field with four turnovers during that 22-2 Heat avalanche to open the third, which included 11 points from Butler, two blocks and a steal from Bam Adebayo, stout defense by P.J. Tucker on Tatum, five points from Max Strus and a three from Gabe Vincent.
Boston didn’t hit a basket in the third until Robert Williams’ layup with 4:53 left in the quarter.
A 9-0 Celtics run then closed Miami’s lead to three, but the Heat revved up again, unleashing a 17-3 burst to push the lead to 93-76 after three.