NBA: Celtics, Thunder expect to see different Heat, Pelicans
NBA

NBA Playoffs: Celtics, Thunder expect to see different Heat, Pelicans

/ 08:18 PM April 24, 2024

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum NBA

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives toward the basket as Miami Heat forward Haywood Highsmith (24) defends in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Jaylen Brown wasn’t sure what happened when he saw Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum take a hard foul from the Heat’s Caleb Martin and crash to the TD Garden floor late in Boston’s NBA playoffs first round series-opening win over Miami on Sunday.

“I see a guy go down, I’ve got my guy’s back — 10 times out of 10,” Brown said Tuesday. “You can’t tell what’s what in the heat of the moment. But it looked like something a little extra, so I said something. But it looked like it was just basketball, it wasn’t intentional. So, we keep moving.”

Physicality is up so far in the playoffs and referees have been letting a lot of contact go — to the consternation of the 76ers and LeBron James, among others. But the Celtics are embracing it.

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READ: NBA: Jayson Tatum leads Celtics past Heat in series opener

Boston will hope to maintain its physical advantage over Miami in Game 2 on Wednesday night while also expecting to see adjustments from a Heat team that struggled offensively with Jimmy Butler (knee) and Terry Rozier (neck) sidelined.

The Celtics did to Miami what they did to opponents throughout the season, launching and connecting on a deluge of 3-pointers that helped put the Heat in a 34-point hole.

Boston also was more active under the basket, winning the rebounding battle 44-34.

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“If you think you’re not going to see a different version of Miami, then you’re kidding yourself,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.

READ: NBA: Celtics’ Jayson Tatum OK after collision late in win over Heat

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Heat coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged that must start with addressing the disparity in 3-point shooting.

Boston averaged an NBA-high 42.5 attempts per game this season and had 49 in Game 1, making 22. Miami attempted 37 3s — above its regular-season average of 33.7 — and made 12.

“We’re not going to bring their 3s down to 25, that’s not realistic. And we’re not going to shoot 50. But there is a balance there,” Spoelstra said.

West top seed Oklahoma City would like to have a less stressful outing after narrowly escaping with a victory in its opener against New Orleans.

The Pelicans were without star Zion Williamson, but controlled the tempo for most of the game. OKC survived thanks to a big night from MVP finalist Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault acknowledged his team’s offense wasn’t at the level he’d like, but thinks it was a good start for a group that had seven players participating in their first playoff game.

“We got some good looks on some plays, some we can learn from,” he said. “These series are long and you have to improve throughout the series.”

HEAT at CELTICS

Boston leads 1-0. Game 2, 7 p.m. EDT, TNT

— NEED TO KNOW: The Celtics looked like the NBA’s top team in Sunday’s series opener, getting a triple-double from Tatum and tying a franchise playoff record with 22 3-pointers in their 114-94 victory. Boston let up off the gas a little in the fourth quarter, allowing Miami to cut into a 34-point deficit. But with Butler sidelined, the Heat couldn’t match Boston’s firepower. Bam Adebayo did his best carrying the offensive load with 24 points. But Miami’s best healthy shooter, Tyler Herro, was 4 of 13 from the field.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: The Celtics’ response to Martin’s foul on Tatum late in Game 1 is worth noting. Boston’s players clearly want to establish their toughness early this postseason. It will be worth watching to see whether that play affects how tightly referees call the rest of the series.

— INJURY WATCH: The Heat will again be without Butler, Rozier and Josh Richardson (shoulder). Celtics reserve center Luke Kornet is also expected to be out again with a strained right calf.

— PRESSURE IS ON: Actually, it’s the Celtics. The opener saw Boston continue its dominance at home this season. The Celtics entered the playoffs aware they were carrying championship expectations and don’t want to let up in Game 2 as they try to make this a quick series against the short-handed Heat.

PELICANS AT THUNDER

New Orleans Pelicans Brandon Ingram NBA playoffs

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Kyle Phillips)

Thunder lead 1-0. Game 2, 9:30 p.m. EDT, TNT

— NEED TO KNOW: The Thunder held on in Game 1 despite getting outrebounded 52-44 and giving up 20 rebounds to Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas. The Thunder shot 11 fewer field goals than the Pelicans and couldn’t push the pace like they usually do because they struggled to get boards and forced only 14 turnovers. Gilgeous-Alexander helped the Thunder overcome their sluggish play by scoring 28 points on 11-of-24 shooting.

READ: NBA: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder survive Pelicans in Game 1

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Thunder center Chet Holmgren’s matchup with Valanciunas. Holmgren struggled at times with Valanciunas’ strength. But Holmgren, a slender rookie who is giving up at least 60 pounds, had his moments with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. He missed several shots early in Game 1 and was able to get where he wanted. If Holmgren gets hot early, the Thunder will be hard to stop.

— INJURY WATCH: The Pelicans will remain without Williamson. New Orleans’ leading scorer is shelved with a strained left hamstring. The Pelicans could have used his offense in Game 1 as they scored just 92 points on 38.5% shooting.

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— PRESSURE IS ON: Oklahoma City. The Thunder barely escaped Game 1, and a loss at home in Game 2 could allow doubt to creep in for a team whose oldest starters are 25. The Thunder are favored by 7 1/2 points, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

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