Skip to main content

The Boston Celtics have their backs against the wall. The eighth-seeded Miami Heat came into TD Garden as significant underdogs and ripped homecourt advantage against from the No. 2 Celtics by winning the first two games of the series.

It’s far from an ideal situation, but Boston has been here before. The Celtics have dropped the first two games at home in a playoff series before, and Heat star Jimmy Butler was a part of it.

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat have torched the Boston Celtics

Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat exchanges words with Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 19, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Adam Glanzman/Getty Images.

It’s clear who the best player of the Celtics/Heat series is so far. As he has been throughout the playoffs, Butler has completely taken over, and he has the Miami Heat two wins from a berth in the 2023 NBA Finals.

The Celtics, led by two All-NBA players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, have been torched by Butler and a team that features seven undrafted players on its roster. Four of those players have made significant contributions in the series.

For Miami, it starts with Butler. He’s clearly winning the battle of the stars. After putting up 35 points and seven assists and combining up big down the stretch in Game 1, Butler did more of the same in Game 2. He finished with 27 points and hit a couple of baskets in the fourth quarter to help overcome a double-digit deficit.

Meanwhile, Celtics stars Tatum and Brown struggled. Brown had a tough game from start to finish, going 7-for-23 from the floor and was a -24 on the court. He finished with 16 points. For the second straight game, Tatum failed to make a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Again, Tatum’s stats were strong as he went for 34 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, and dished out eight assists. He also continued to turn the ball over in key situations, finishing with a game-high five turnovers. He disappeared offensively in the final 12 minutes.

The Celtics overcame a 2-0 deficit against Butler and the Chicago Bulls in 2017

During the 2016-17 season, the Celtics were the top seed and faced a Jimmy Butler-led Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Tatum wasn’t yet in the NBA, and Brown was in his rookie season.

The Bulls, led by Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo, came to Boston in Game 1 and escaped with a 106-102 victory behind Butler’s 30 points. In Game 2, Butler and Wade each had 22 points in a convincing 111-97 victory. Late in Game 2, however, Rondo suffered a fractured thumb that prevented him from playing the rest of the series.

The Celtics bounced back and won four straight, including a pair of convincing victories in Chicago in Games 3 and 4.

If the Celtics, who were heavily favored to win this series with the Miami Heat, have any hopes of advancing to the NBA Finals, they’ll need to win four of the next five games. It’s no easy task against this Butler-led team.

Tatum, however, said the Celtics are still a confident bunch despite the 2-0 deficit.

“It’s tough. It’s a challenge,” Tatum said after Game 2. “There’s no point being up here sad and s***. They came here and won two games. They played well. You give them credit.

“We’re not dead or anything. We got a great opportunity. I still got the utmost confidence. Everybody’s got the utmost confidence. We just got to get ready for Game 3.”


Jayson Tatum: Overhyped or Underrated?