The Heat aren’t the Sixers.
The Heat aren’t the Raptors.
The Heat are trouble.
The Celtics learned this the hard way Tuesday night, with Bam Adebayo offering a stern reminder.
With five seconds left in overtime of the Eastern Conference Finals first game, rose up to the rim for what appeared to be a game-tying dunk. But Adebayo’s hand somehow, some way got in between the ball and cylinder, resulting in one of the best blocks in NBA postseason history … and a Celtics’ 117-114 loss.
This was supposed to be the Celtics’ moment. For the better part of the postseason, that had been the case. Tatum was going to find a way. And if not him it would be Kemba Walker. And if not him, maybe Jaylen Brown. And as a fail-safe there would always be Marcus Smart.
Not this time. Different opponent. Different series.
The Heat clearly present problems Brad Stevens’ team hadn’t had to deal with throughout its first two rounds. First off, it is a Miami team that can close any gap thanks to a perimeter game that finished with 16 three-pointers (5 from old friend Jae Crowder). The Celtics held a 12-point lead heading into the final quarter. It wasn’t enough.
Then there is the passing.
Miami’s drive-and-kick game was complemented perfect by its ability to cut to the basket. Thirty-two assists later and the Celtics’ heads were spinning.
And, finally, there is Jimmy Butler.
The Heat star is the kind of go-to guy that makes every final possession uncomfortable, as the Celtics found out the hard way. First game Butler’s three-pointer with 22 seconds left that gave his team a one-point lead. Fortunately for the C’s, a Tatum free throw still allowed for an overtime.
But there was no answer for what Butler did when isolated against Tatum at the end of overtime, powering his way past the Celtics’ star on the way to an eventual game-winning layup. It was a seemingly indefensible play against a very determined star player … and team.
The Celtics weren’t without their positives. Smart’s value actually could be quantified on the scoresheet this time around, going for 26 points with six three-pointers. Brad Wanamaker also did more than his part off the bench, totaling 11 points in 25 minutes. And Tatum did his thing, netting 30 points with 14 rebounds while narrowly missing what would have been an epic buzzer-beating, game-tying three-pointer.
And while Walker struggled for much of the game once again — finishing up with a 6-for-19 night from the floor (1-of-9 from three) — he did hit some clutch shots down the stretch.
Moral victories need not apply at this stage. It’s time to accept reality, and in this case that’s the uneasy feeling the Heat are handing Boston heading into Game 2.