BOSTON -- Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was going so well for the Celtics, until it wasn't. After a solid and surprising first half from the undermanned Celtics, they were outplayed in every facet of the game in the third quarter, which ultimately cost the team any shot at stealing Game 1 against the Heat.
Getting outscored by 25 points in a single quarter will do that to a team. The Celtics just had no life in the third quarter, and were outscored 39-14 by the Heat.
It was Boston's only bad quarter of the game, but boy was it really bad. The ball movement dried up and when the Celtics did pass, the ball ended up in the hands of the Heat. Boston committed eight of its 16 turnovers in the third quarter, with just one assist in the frame.
And they had no answer for Miami's intensity to start the second half. It seemed like the Heat got a hand on the ball every time it belonged to the Celtics. Instead of hunting for the extra pass, the Celtics went hunting for fouls. It didn't work, and the Heat took advantage.
Miami shot 11-for-22 in the third and made 14 of their 17 free throws. The Celtics were just 2-for-15. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had just seven points between them in the quarter -- all of which came at the free throw line.
Tatum was 0-for-2 in the quarter, missing both of his three-point attempts. But what really killed the Celtics were Tatum's six turnovers in the quarter. Three of those happened in a 33-second span, and all three led to easy buckets for Miami. One of those three came after Ime Udoka called his second timeout to try to snap an 18-2 Miami run, when Tatum drove into traffic and coughed it up, leading to a fastbreak hoop for the Heat.
Udoka called out his stars after the 118-107 defeat, saying they were responsible for Miami's third-quarter success. There was no argument from Tatum or Brown after the game.
"It's on me," Tatum said after the game, pointing to his turnovers in the quarter. "I have to take care of the ball better, especially in those situations where they're going on a run like that."
"They were the harder playing team. Everything was going their way and we were just standing around watching," said Brown. "We have to get in the mix and match their physicality. ... That was not our best effort. We have to put our best foot forward against a team like Miami.
"We lost the game in the third quarter," Brown added. "I have to be better; we have to be better.
To their credit, neither Tatum or Brown would use the absence of Marcus Smart or Al Horford as an excuse. They didn't blame it on tired legs after having to win a Game 7 against the Bucks on Sunday.
Brown said that they had control of Game 1 in the first half and just let it slip away. Both he and Tatum are now looking forward to washing away the stench of the loss, and bouncing back in Game 2 on Thursday night.
"Over the course of the playoffs we've done a great job responding. But for whatever reason, we didn't today," said Tatum. "I'll be the first one to take the blame for that. I have to lead better and I have to play better, especially in those moments. I'm looking forward to responding in the next game."
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