May 28, 2024

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Wednesday's NBA playoffs results and takeaways: Heat over Celtics, Thunder dominates Pelicans

Wednesday's NBA playoffs results and takeaways: Heat over Celtics, Thunder dominates Pelicans

Written by Jared Weiss, Eric Koren, Darnell Mayberry, and Will Guillory

Heat doesn't fully describe what Miami was dropping from behind the arc in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday at TD Garden. The Heat hit 23 3-pointers to secure the win, even the series at 1-1 and flipping home-court advantage.

Miami's 3 is a team record in a playoff appearance and just one shy of tying the mark in any game in team history (Dec. 14, 2022 at OKC).

Tyler Herro, who hit six 3s and had 24 points, also contributed a career-high with 14 assists, passing teammate Jimmy Butler β€” who had 13 assists in Game 2 of the 2020 NBA Finals β€” for the most in a playoff game. On the road in Heat history.

Later that night, the Oklahoma City Thunder extended their series lead to 2-0 with a dominant win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander proved why he is an MVP contender, scoring a game-high 33 points, while Chet Holgrim scored 26 points.

New Orleans β€” still without the injured Zion Williamson β€” struggled to find momentum to compete with OKC's hot offense. All five Thunder players scored in double-digits, with the team shooting 59 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from 3.

OKC became the first team ever in the NBA to get all of its playoff points from players 25 years old or younger, Per Opta statistics.

Heat 111, Celtics 101

series: Draw 1-1

Game 3: Saturday at 6pm ET in Miami

Heat flips the script

It doesn't look like this series is going to get very competitive after the first game. Miami wasn't taking 3s, its defense couldn't handle the Jays and Boston's firepower was too much in the end. But the scenario completely flipped on Wednesday. The Heat effectively turned into the Celtics and vice versa.

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This time, Miami was raining 3s, with Herro having one of his best games of the season. Caleb Martin looked like the guy who tore apart Boston in the conference finals last year. So this wasn't just an ordinary eight seed type win that gets lucky.

This raises real questions about whether Boston can maintain a strategic advantage as this series continues. Can Kristaps Porziņģis catch the ball and fire the ball past Miami's energetic wingers, constantly making his life difficult?

The Celtics' defensive effort had major holes and they will need to close down better and find a way to keep up with pick-and-roll hero Bam Adebayo. This action has lit up the Celtics defense from start to finish, so how can Boston adjust? Can Derrick White finally get past those screens? Will Boston have to start switching more and allow Adebayo to attack guards?

This was one of those games that reminds you why everyone dreads come playoff time for the Heat. Coach Erik Spoelstra has shown he can get his team to turn into whatever it needs to be to win in the postseason. The Celtics will need a lot more effort going deep on possessions and less offensive predictability to take control of this series. β€” Jared Weiss, Celtics staff writer

Underdog maneuver

Boston won Game 1 thanks to a 22-12 three-point advantage, and Spoelstra's plan for Game 2 appears designed to flip that scenario. Spoelstra insisted on the broadcast that his team was taking shots that the Celtics defense surrendered, but taking 15 3-pointers compared to just four 2-pointers in the first quarter amounted to an extreme commitment to adopting the underdog maneuver.

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Four Heat players had three or more points, led by six from Herro. Defensively, Miami played a switch-heavy scheme designed to lure the Celtics into a one-man offense. The Celtics scored well in the paint, but were unable to create second-chance points to take full advantage of mismatches.

Spoelstra is not one to strategically sit still. Even after winning, he messes up. One name worth keeping an eye on: Nikola Jovic. The second-year forward was down 25 in the first game and had five turnovers on Wednesday. He sat out the entire game, which is unusual. However, without the injured Butler, Haywood Highsmith's perimeter defense appears to be increasingly important. Jovic had 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists, so it's not like he was dramatically out of place.

Spoelstra has to know that his team won't shoot 54% from deep most nights, so he'll continue to look for margins to exploit. β€” Eric Koren, NBA staff writer

Thunder 124, Pelicans 92

series: Aoki leads 2-0

Game 3: Saturday at 3:30 PM ET in New Orleans


(Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

How did the Thunder win?

The tandem of Gilgeous-Alexander and Holmgren combined for 59 points on 22-of-32 shooting to fuel the Thunder with a dominating performance. Oklahoma City led by as many as 34 points and never trailed in the final 43 1/2 minutes of the game.

Jalen Williams added 21 points and seven assists. In contrast to the sluggish fight we saw in Game 1, Oklahoma City's offense came alive early in Game 2, thanks to 15 early points from Holmgren, who made his first seven shots. The Thunder hit 14 of 29 3-pointers (48.3 percent). They made just 43.5 percent from the field and made just 10 of 32 3-pointers in the first game.

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Oklahoma City's defense befuddled the Pelicans for the second straight game and was responsible for the offensive explosion. The Thunder turned 17 Pelicans turnovers into 22 points. Pelicans star Brandon Ingram scored just 18 points on 5-for-10 shooting after finishing with just 12 points.

After protecting their home court, the Thunder should now head to New Orleans very confident as the series turns to Games 3 and 4.

The Pelicans had no answer for Gilgeous-Alexander. Holmgren looked more comfortable in Game 2. Ingram still couldn't get going. β€” Darnell Mayberry, NBA staff writer

The Pelicans were not ready at the moment

The Pelicans have been one of the most solid teams in the NBA this season, as evidenced by their league-leading 28 away wins. All year long, they have fed the road crowds and performed at the highest level. They didn't look like that team on Wednesday night. They completely fell apart in every possible way during their Game 2 demolition at the hands of the Thunder. New Orleans turned the ball over 18 times, including an impressive eight offensive fouls. Ingram made two field goal attempts in the first half. Gilgeous-Alexander, Holmgren and Williams got everything they wanted all night, combining for 80 points on 32-of-49 shooting.

New Orleans didn't just look like a young team. It seemed like a team that was not prepared for this moment. Now the team returns home down 0-2 and needs a win on Saturday to give itself any chance of reviving its season. This went as badly as could have been imagined. β€” Will Guillory, Pelicans staff writer

NBA playoffs schedule Thursday

Cavaliers at Magic: 7 p.m. ET (Cavaliers lead 2-0)

Knicks at 76ers: 7:30 PM ET (Knicks leads 2-0)

Nuggets at Lakers: 10 p.m. ET (Nuggets lead 2-0)

Required reading

(Top photo by Tyler Herro and Jaylen Brown: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)