The NBA is down to its final four teams, and so far, there have been few surprises. Unlike the drama that comes from an event like the Preakness Stakes, the conference finals have been a predictable affair in both the Eastern and Western Conference editions.
The beauty of playoff basketball is its length. Seven-game series allow teams an opportunity to come back, so it’s not as if this year’s NBA Finals matchup is set in stone. But through Game 1, both home teams held serve in front of their loyal fans.
Heat Comeback Against Shorthanded Celtics
Despite controlling the number one seed in the East and possessing home court advantage throughout the playoffs, the Miami Heat entered the Eastern Conference Finals as underdogs. However, they looked anything but during Tuesday’s decisive 118-107 win over the Boston Celtics.
Once again, Jimmy Butler was the star of the show. The 32-year-old dropped a game-high 41 points, 27 of which came in the second half. It was Butler’s fifth 40-point effort with the Heat, all of which have come in the postseason.
Beyond Butler, Tyler Herro dropped 18 points off of the bench. The Sixth Man of the Year now has 10 double-digit scoring nights in 12 postseason games in 2022.
Miami won Game 1 with a massive third-quarter showing. Down 62-54 at the half, the Heat outscored the Celtics 39-14 in the third quarter. Jayson Tatum, who led Boston with 29 points, went the whole third quarter without a field goal and had more turnovers (6) than points (5).
Although it took some time before clicking, the Heat took advantage of a shorthanded Celtics squad. Boston was missing Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and veteran big man Al Horford. As a result, role players Payton Pritchard and Daniel Theis had to fill more minutes.
Smart, who suffered a mid-foot sprain in Boston’s second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, should be back for Game 2 on Thursday. However, Horford is still in health and safety protocols while Derrick White has been ruled out for personal reasons.
Warriors Dominate Against Mavericks
With the one-seed Phoenix Suns going down in the second round, the Golden State Warriors took their place as West favorites. And they certainly lived up to their reputation, thrashing the Dallas Mavericks 112-87 in Game 1.
Golden State was in control from start to finish. Thanks to 15 first-half points from Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors built a 54-45 halftime lead. From there, the “Splash Brother” duo of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry scored 15 and nine points respectively, with all nine of Curry’s points coming in the third quarter.
Whether it was good defense or bad shooting, the Mavericks had trouble keeping up with the Warriors. Dallas shot 40.5% from the field and a dismal 21.1% from three. Luka Doncic had his worst playoff game, scoring 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting with seven turnovers and a -30 rating.
It was a team effort from Golden State. The Dubs had seven players reach double figures including all five starters. Meanwhile, Dallas had four.
Game 1 was another example of the Warriors’ overall dominance this postseason. In its first playoff berth since 2018-19, Golden State took down back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in five games, then survived the two-seed Memphis Grizzlies in six games.
While the Mavericks are down, they’re certainly not out. After their six-game victory over the Utah Jazz, the Mavs won all three home games against the Suns to force a Game 7. From there, Dallas’ 33-point Game 7 win on the road served as one of the more improbable upsets in recent NBA history.
The Heat and Warriors each have a long way to go before punching their respective tickets to the NBA Finals. That said, their Game 1 performances prove how difficult it will be for their opponents to win four times over the coming days.