A third-quarter rally from the Heat on Tuesday night was not the result of Erik Spoelstra giving a rah-rah speech in the locker room.
In fact, Miami’s head coach didn’t say much at halftime when his team trailed the Boston Celtics by eight points in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat’s deficit probably should have been even greater at the time, as the Celtics shot nearly 60% from the field in the first two quarters and largely smothered Miami on defense.
Heat players took it upon themselves to shift the momentum. As The Boston Globe’s Nicole Yang explained in a column published Tuesday night, Miami’s foremost veteran leaders took center stage in the locker room at halftime and implored the team to up the intensity. The Heat knew they were straying from their identity by allowing the C’s to do what they pleased on offense.
“We were way too soft,” Miami veteran P.J. Tucker said after the game, per the Globe. “They got pretty much everything they wanted.”
How did Miami respond? By putting forth a dominant third quarter in which it outscored the visitors by 25 points. The Celtics never quit and played some inspired basketball in the final frame, but the lopsided third proved to be the difference in the Heat’s 118-107 win at FTX Arena.
Miami has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead Thursday night when the Eastern Conference powerhouses reconvene in South Beach. Tipoff for Game 2 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET.