Heat bring Celtics 2-0 lead to Miami as Eastern Final resumes on Sunday

MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler leads Miami in the playoffs in points, minutes, assists and steals per game. He’s the team dinner sommelier. He’s the barista when it’s coffee time.

If all that wasn’t enough, he’s also the DJ.

When the music blares in the Heat’s locker room, Butler is almost always in charge. It could be gospel, it could be Whitney Houston, it could be Nickelback and – as it was after Miami’s 111-105 win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals – it could be Morgan Wallen, whose the song “Somebody’s Problem” became a Heat anthem.

Wallen’s song isn’t about basketball, even though it has nothing to do with the Heat. Butler is somebody’s problem these days. In fact, he is everyone’s problem. And the Boston Celtics are running out of time to find a solution.

Game 3 of the Eastern Finals takes place on Sunday night, with the eighth-seeded Heat leading 2-0 after surprising almost everyone but themselves by traveling to Boston and winning the first two games of the series – putting themselves in a position to reclaim a conference title which the Celtics defeated them last season.

“I’ve said it all year,” said Butler, who is averaging 31.1 playoff points. “We’ll ride together until the wheels drop.”

The wheels are good so far. The Heat won 10 of 13 games to open the playoffs, having never won 10 of 13 games during the regular season. They toppled top-seeded Milwaukee in the first round, ousted fifth-seeded New York in the second round and now have second-seeded Boston in serious trouble. And they’ve managed to overcome more deficits of 12 or more points in these playoffs — six, after doing it again Friday night — than the rest of the NBA combined (five) entering Saturday.

“It feels like it’s just been our year-round existence. I guess nobody really cares,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Every game was like for weeks, every game ended with a last second shot, whether we shot it or the other team shot it. So you develop courage from that.

They also developed something – perhaps some of the courage Spoelstra talks about – going through last year’s Eastern Finals, when Boston won three times at home to Miami, including a match-up triumph. 7 that sent the Celtics to the NBA Finals against Golden State.

The Heat know this streak isn’t over. They remember what Boston is capable of in Miami, and they know it will be a rallying cry for the Celtics too.

“This team, we have a real, real decision to make,” said Grant Williams of Boston, the subject of Game 2 after facing Butler in the fourth quarter as Miami – perhaps not coincidentally – started a 24- 9 run to end the game.

“That decision is going to be, ‘Are we going to come back and really set the tone for the rest of this year and make a statement?’ or ‘Are we going to go out and go to bed?’ “Williams said. “And I don’t think this team is made to lie down.

2-0 LEAD

It’s the 18th time Miami has taken a 2-0 series lead in Udonis Haslem’s 20 seasons with the team. The Heat had all 17 wins in the previous series, including 13 under Spoelstra.

Boston has lost 15 of its last 16 series after falling 2-0. The exception came in the first round against Chicago in 2017, another game where the Celtics dropped Games 1 and 2 at home.


Celtics starters Jaylen Brown (17-for-44, .386) and Al Horford (4-for-13, .308) are off to dismal shooting starts in this series. Brown is 2 for 13 on 3-pointers, Horford 1 for 8.

Meanwhile, Celtics center Robert Williams is 11-for-11 in two games. It’s his second consecutive 11-game scoring streak in this playoffs, and he’s shooting an absurd 49 for 59 in the playoffs (.831).


No player has had more rebounds or assists in the first two games of the series than Miami’s Bam Adebayo.

He had 25 rebounds (Tatum had second most with 20) and 14 assists (tied with Boston’s Marcus Smart for the most).

But the real gem on the stat sheet for the first two games might be this: Butler has more steals (nine) than the Celtics combined (eight).


While Miami is now a slight favorite to win the series, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Celtics are 3.5-point favorites in Game 3.

And the Celtics (+290) still have a much better chance of winning the NBA title, according to FanDuel, than Miami (+440).


“I think it has a lot to do with effort and detail. You can play as hard as you can, but if you don’t execute, it matters. –Boston coach Joe Mazzulla asked on Saturday whether Miami was trying harder than the Celtics.


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