Jimmy Butler said the Boston Celtics "whipped our tail on our home floor" in their 127-102 beatdown of the Miami Heat in Game 2.

The return of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from a foot injury ignited the Celtics on the offensive end just as much as defensively, with the team hitting a red-hot 20-of-40 from three-point range.

Boston's five that played at least 30 minutes – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Smart – shot 17-of-29 from long-range, and combined for 23 assists, which was two more than Miami had as a team.

Speaking to post-game media, Butler said the Celtics "tried to embarrass us", but pointed out that they were always going to be facing an uphill battle against such an outlier shooting performance.

"You do have to move on, but I don't like to move on from this. It has to hurt," he said.

"They tried to embarrass us – they did embarrass us. I think we got to realise that, or use it as fuel, but realise that the game can get out of hand when you're playing against a really good team like them that can score the ball and get stops.

"They made shots that they missed last game. That's just what it is.

"It's going to be hard to beat anybody when they shoot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three. They were the more physical team overall, and they got one on the road.

"Overall, we just have to be better. We've got a tough job to do to go over there and win, but if they did it, we can do it as well."

He added: "I look at it as 'it can't get too much worse'. They whipped our tail on our home floor.

"I guess if they do it on their home floor it's supposed to happen, but I don't see us doing that again. 

"The first half has been brutal for us in both of these games, we just got to come out and play harder from the jump and be ready, because they be throwing some haymakers in the first half."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not feel like his side played poorly – but that it felt like the Celtics wanted revenge for Game 1.

"You definitely have to credit Boston," he said. "It's not just that they came in with great urgency and physicality – they did have that, for sure – they also played well. They played really well on both ends.

"We know what they're capable of defensively – they've done this to some very good offenses. I'm sure they were not happy with us putting up 118 in Game 1, and they came out very disruptive. 

"They got us out of our normal rhythm and flow, and the shot-making on the other end was very tough to overcome.

"You get to this point – in the Conference Finals – you just have very good teams. Teams without many weaknesses, it's great competition.

"This only counts as one, and that's what the experiences players and staff in the locker room understand. We don't like it, but they played extremely well."

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

"Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

"If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

"So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

"Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

"He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

"You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra lavished praise on Jimmy Butler following his side's 120-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, labelling him the "ultimate competitor."

Without the injured Kyle Lowry, Butler led the Heat with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while keeping turnovers to a relatively low two despite higher usage.

After scoring 33 and 40 points respectively in losses on the road, Butler had more of a supporting crew in Game 5, as six other Heat players scored in double digits.

Spoelstra singled Butler out not only for his versatility, and how that drives the Heat, but his character.

"Jimmy is just such a stable, high IQ…he's got a great feel for what the team needs, and he does it on both ends and that's what's really kind of lost on young players coming into this league," Spoelstra said post-game.

"He has orchestrated so many things for us offensively, particularly with Kyle [Lowry] out, and he's been able to toggle between those roles seamlessly, and make it look a lot easier than it is."

Shots fell for the Heat as they took a 3-2 series lead, converting on 39.4 per cent of attempts from the perimeter and finishing with 26 assists as a team.

Butler finished Game 5 with an impressive defensive rating of 87.7, and Spoelstra believes his competitive spirit is transformative in both individual and collective senses.

"In terms of being just a scoring option tonight, he was that scoring option but also facilitating for us, he was kind of initiating offense for us quite a bit," he said. "You just feel our whole team has a great sense of confidence when the ball's in Jimmy's hands and we leave the decision up to him.

"He's a great competitor in his heart and his soul. He's an ultimate competitor and when you get into competition, he understands the whole deal. You have to be able to do it on both ends.

"That's what he's been doing for us for three years, really competing for us on both ends, but he's able to compete with a ferocity and do it with an incredibly stable mind."

The Philadelphia 76ers still do not know if Joel Embiid will be able to return in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, as he still has "so many steps to go through".

Embiid has not played so far in the second-round series, in which the 76ers now trail 2-0 after another defeat on Wednesday.

Although Tyrese Maxey went off for 34 points, Heat center Bam Adebayo (23 points and nine rebounds) enjoyed another big night in Embiid's absence to inspire a 119-103 win.

The 76ers will hope to get on the board as they head home to Philadelphia, but they may again be without their MVP candidate, who suffered a facial fracture and concussion against the Toronto Raptors in round one.

Coach Doc Rivers could offer no assurances ahead of Game 3, as he told reporters: "I really don't know [if Embiid can play].

"We talked [on Tuesday], and we talked [on Wednesday]. He looked good, as far as talking.

"But he's got so many steps to go through, and I don't think he's cleared any of them right now. So, we just have to wait and see."

Despite the Heat's dominant start, coach Erik Spoelstra remains wary of the series-altering impact of a potential Embiid return.

"It changes dramatically," Spoelstra said. "You're talking about MVP talent, you know? So, we'll just have to see.

"We knew that this series was going to shift, and it was going to change pretty dramatically [if Embiid returns].

"It's better for it to change dramatically when we're able to get a couple wins, but yeah, he changes the equation quite a bit."

On a night where star Jimmy Butler did not have his best showing, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was full of praise for his supporting cast in their 106-92 Game 1 win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler finished five-of-16 from the field for his 15 points, and did not play at all in the fourth quarter as the Heat extended their lead without him.

Young duo Bam Adebayo (24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) and Tyler Herro (25 points and seven assists) picked up the slack, while P.J. Tucker grinded out 29 tough minutes for 10 points and seven rebounds while spending long stretches on Philadelphia's James Harden.

Speaking with post-game media, Spoelstra said he was not shaken by the 76ers leading at half-time, and he knew Herro's next big performance was just around the corner.

"First of all, 48-minute games are long, and they're a very good team, even without Embiid," he said. "You get a double-digit lead in this league, and in the playoffs, they can disappear like that.

"I think it was just a matter of time before [Herro] was going to get into his rhythm. He's a great player, and he's so skilled. 

"It is just a matter of time, and sometimes you miss shots, [but] I thought in the Atlanta series he was playing good basketball. He just wasn't making some of the shots we're used to seeing him make, then everyone jumps to conclusions about that – but he was playing winning basketball.

"The plays in between – they weren't necessarily play-calls – but it was the plays in between that he was able to be super efficient in. He's a big-time 'X-factor' for us offensively when he's in that rhythm."

Spoelstra then shifted his attention to his starting big-men.

"Those inspiring offensive rebounds, and extra possessions, and extra efforts kind of ignited the whole team," he said. "That was P.J. [Tucker] and Bam [Adebayo] – both of those guys were terrific.

"Defensively we really picked up the intensity, but we did it with a bit more thought and discipline. 

"On both ends of the court, [Adebayo] was so critical. In that second half, whether it was zone or man [defence], he was able to find those open gaps in the paint.

"It wasn't as if we were running specific plays for him, it was just his activity, and his relentlessness, and his assertiveness. Our guys were finding him in the paint, and when the ball was up there he was going after it.

"You can't put an analytic to it – I literally don't know what [Tucker's] stats were – but he has those momentum-shifting plays. These timely, winning plays – and he has a way of doing things that just inspires your whole team. 

"[Tucker] was tremendous on both ends of the court, and that's what winning basketball is meant to look like. He's our best communicator… and he's such an underrated, high-IQ offensive player."

The Heat looked to figure out their opponents in the second half, outscoring the 76ers 56-41 over the last two quarters, but Spoelstra said he knows there is a long series ahead, with plenty of adjustments coming from both sides.

"Doc [Rivers] is a great coach, a brilliant mind," he said. "He'll come up with something, and we'll try to make our adjustments. 

"Even without Embiid, they have some great firepower. Harden creates a lot of things you have to be ultra on-edge about, Maxey has just continued to improve, and Harris was killing us tonight."

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry will miss the start of the team's Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Philadelphia 76ers as he continues to battle a hamstring injury.

The 36-year-old has been on the sidelines since suffering the injury during game three of the quarter-final series win over the Atlanta Hawks on April 22, as the Heat chase a first NBA championship since 2012-13.

Lowry was listed as an absence for Monday's game one in a social media update from the Heat, and though coach Erik Spoelstra says the six-time NBA all star is making good progress in his recovery, he remains unsure as to when he will return.

"I'm not even going [on] any kind of timetable," Spoelstra said after Sunday's practice. "I know he's doing more. Gym has been great. Everybody's been able to do something and to prepare for the series."

Lowry claimed his one NBA championship to date with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, and has impressed for the top-seeded Heat since joining the franchise last year.

Meanwhile, the team listed Jimmy Butler as questionable after he sat out the final game of their series win over the Hawks with a knee injury, although the 32-year-old said he was confident he would be ready to return to face the Sixers after Saturday's practice.

"We've had so many different rotations and line-ups during the course of the year that we've been forced to stay in the present moment," he added.

"And we have great care and empathy for the guys that have missed time, but we just have to totally lock into who's available. Everybody else is ready to go, and we have a big challenge.

"This is a series that could potentially change, both sides, three or four times. It could feel totally different by the middle of it, so that's why you can exhaust yourself with all the different hypotheticals. 

"We basically know, both teams, who's going to play game one, and that's the way it should be. You shouldn't be thinking about game two, game three, game four, anything past that. Just embrace the competition and what's ahead."

The Heat also have doubts over Markieff Morris, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, P. J. Tucker, and Tyler Herro ahead of their semi-final series.

Jimmy Butler became only the third Miami Heat player to have three 40-point playoff games with a big performance in Tuesday's Game 2 win against the Atlanta Hawks.

The six-time All-Star finished with 45 in a 115-105 win to give the Heat a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.

Only LeBron James (also three) and Dwyane Wade (seven) have previously had as many 40-point games for the Heat in the postseason as Butler.

Indeed, only James (26.9) and Wade (22.6) have averaged more points per game for the Heat in the postseason than Butler (21.9).

And coach Erik Spoelstra, who led a Heat team containing James and Wade to titles in 2012 and 2013, considers Butler worthy of comparison to the latter.

"It actually is a good comparison," Spoelstra said. "If you get in those pressure moments and the moments of truth, if you're on the other side, would you ever want to just give Dwyane Wade an open three?

"You would not, because he's a killer. He's going to seize that moment.

"And Jimmy has a lot of those same qualities. You can say whatever the percentage is – throw those all out when it becomes about winning. He'll find a way to kill you."

Butler's latest display was unlike anything previously seen by a Heat player, though.

At the start of the week, no player had finished with 40-plus points, five-plus rebounds, five-plus assists, no turnovers and no fouls in a playoff game since turnovers became an official statistic in 1977-78.

Butler became the second player to achieve such a stat line in two days, following in the footsteps of breakout Dallas Mavericks star Jalen Brunson.

The two previous 40-point playoff games from Butler had come in the 2020 run to the NBA Finals, which played out in the 'bubble' in Orlando.

But Butler, now paired with point guard Kyle Lowry, feels he is "a different player" in 2022.

"I am a different player now than I was then," he said. "I just always want to play basketball the right way and do whatever it takes to help this team, this organisation win. That's why they brought me here.

"I'm not as ball-dominant as I was in the bubble. We've got a point guard, and that's Kyle, and I love him being a point guard.

"I just get to go out there and try to score. And if I can't score, pass the ball. We're a different team; I'm a different player."

Coming off four straight losses heading into Monday's game against the Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knew something needed to change.

Ultimately, that change would be Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo falling out of the rotation entirely, playing zero combined minutes.

The Heat looked great with their new line-ups, which featured Max Strus slotting into a starting role, winning each of the first three quarters comfortably on the way to a 123-100 victory.

Speaking to post-game media, Spoelstra made a point of protecting his benched players' feelings, and stressed that more tinkering would be ahead.

"These are tough decisions, and there are a lot of different things that could work, but we just felt like at this particular time that these moves may clean up some things with the rotation," he said.

"Those aren't easy decisions, and I think we all just have to have empathy and grace for some of these changes for the guys that didn't necessarily play tonight.

"It's about understanding that we have a roster full of proven, capable guys, and we're going to need everybody, particularly in this final push and in the playoffs.

"A lot of it will be matchup-based… we'll just keep an open mind about what we may need to do moving forward."

Spoelstra went on to say that the difference in this game was about far more than simply benching two solid players.

"This wasn't a 'one move' thing – we were very disappointed about the past four games, and this has been trending, really, even before that, when we were winning," he said.

"It's not an indictment on anybody – sometimes these things can be chemistry things, sometimes it's just the flow of certain guys playing off of each other.

"The ball and body movement was better – less holding [the ball], we're moving the ball, guys were able to play to their strengths. It was less stagnant for sure.

"We've seen what Jimmy [Butler] can do when he has open spaces to be able to be creative, and be able to attack, and be able to make plays. I know he hit three three-pointers tonight – I love that – but he was in a lot of places where he can be successful and effective.

"There were a lot of different layers to [today's moves] – again, it's just one game. Our roster is deep, and our roster checks a lot of different boxes, which we feel you need in the playoffs.

"Each series – if we're fortunate enough to play multiple series – they have totally different needs and complexions, and we feel like versatility and our depth is really one of the greatest strengths of this team."

Miami regained the Eastern Conference one seed with the result, but it will switch hands once again if they cannot defeat the surging Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

Erik Spoelstra returned to the Miami Heat ahead of their game against the Sacramento Kings on Monday. 

Head coach Spoelstra missed Saturday's 110-95 loss to the Brooklyn Nets for personal reasons, with assistant coach Chris Quinn filling in. 

However, Miami confirmed that the 60-year-old was back with the team for the meeting with the Kings at FTX Arena. 

Ahead of Monday's game, the Heat (47-28) had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference but sat below the Boston Celtics. The Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers were half a game back in a tight top four. 

The Miami Heat were without coach Erik Spoelstra for their game with the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. 

Miami confirmed prior to tip-off that Spoelstra would not be in attendance at FTX Arena due to personal reasons. 

Assistant coach Chris Quinn was handed the reins of the Heat, who sat top of the Eastern Conference with eight games to play. 

Miami have lost their past three games, opening the door for the Philadelphia 76ers to displace them as the top seed in the closing stretch of the regular season. 

The Nets sat eighth in the East and looked set to be heading for the play-in tournament. 

Erik Spoelstra said his mid-game spat with Jimmy Butler showed the passion within the Miami Heat ranks and their unwillingness to tolerate slumping performances.

Coach Spoelstra and six-time All-Star Butler, along with Udonis Haslem on the Heat bench, appeared to exchange fiery words and gestures during a timeout as the Heat struggled against the Golden State Warriors.

Golden State bolted to a 69-50 lead after scoring the first 19 points of the third quarter, and amid this slide came the dispute within the Heat ranks.

Spoelstra slammed a clipboard down onto the court and confronted Butler before others attempted to separate the pair.

Allowing himself to joke after the game, which saw the Heat roar back to establish an 84-81 lead before crumpling to a 118-104 defeat, Spoelstra explained the incident.

"Everybody was wondering where the dinner plans were tonight after the game," he said, before answering more seriously.

"It was pretty clear, we have a very competitive, gnarly group, and we were getting our a***s kicked, and it's two straight games we were not playing to the level we wanted to play.

"Every person in that huddle was pretty animated about our disappointment at how we were playing."

 

This game followed a 113-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Eastern Conference-leading Heat's record now stands at 47-26.

Asked about whether the public bickering could have a lasting impact, Spoelstra said: "It won't, we have bigger things to accomplish, but we do want to play better, and everything has to be better across the board.

"It starts with our leadership, our veteran players have to lead, and then we just have to play better, play better to our identity and that's really all the discussions were.

"I know how it can look from the outside, but that is more our language than playing without passion or without toughness, or without multiple efforts and lifelessness.

"Everything that happened in the hall from then on, as we cut that 19-point lead, that's way more to our personality."

Spoelstra even hinted the flash point could have a positive impact.

"You can use moments during a season to catapult you. You can galvanise together over frustration and disappointment," he said. "Teams can also go the other way. I don't see that with our group. But we have needed a kick in the butt from these two games.

"These two games were disappointing to everybody. You see a competitive group that is not playing to the level or the standards we want to play at.

"Let's give credit to Golden State. We played with great passion to get back into the game, but they executed well, and they made some big shots."

Victor Oladipo is expected to make his Miami Heat debut against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, according to head coach Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat – who reached the 2020 Finals – acquired two-time All-Star Oladipo from the Houston Rockets at last week's NBA trade deadline in exchange for Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley.

Oladipo started the year with the Indiana Pacers before he was moved to the Rockets as they dealt James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

Now, Oladipo – who is averaging 21.2 points per game in 2020-21 – is preparing to make his second bow of the season.

"He's ready to go," Spoelstra said ahead of Wednesday's clash with the Pacers.

"We’ve had several Zoom sessions just to review and try to fast track our system. But he's a savvy, high-IQ veteran player. He's going to pick up things very quickly.

"He's been able to work out the last couple of days with Caron at the Arena, so they've been able to review some things, as well. I've talked him and we’ll see him when we get to Miami.

"All these circumstances are different than in a normal season, and these are just another example of how you have to adapt."

Spoelstra added: "I feel like I know Vic. I did reach out to Dwyane [Wade]. They've been working out together for years. And Dwyane, Vic and Coach Crean would always do like a weeklong training camp during the summer and get together. And I was always aware about what was going on during that week.

"So we're very familiar with him. We feel comfortable with guys that have been coached by Coach Crean, because you're going to get developed the right way and held accountable to the details. And I think you see that in his play. He's an IQ player that sees the game."

Before facing the Pacers midweek, the Heat (23-24) were eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra insisted his team still have the right spirit and a huge "sense of urgency" after suffering a fifth straight loss, going down 109-105 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

In an NBA first for the shot-clock era, the Clippers won a game despite being outscored by 14+ points in the first and fourth quarters, according to Stats Perform data. 

The Heat fell to 6-12 for the season having been beaten by a Clippers team playing without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley. 

Spoelstra was also without key players; Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala were among seven who were unavailable. 

The Clippers trailed by 18 early, but then turned the tables and built a lead as high as 19 by the time the third quarter ended.

However, the Heat won the fourth quarter by 15 points and were within three before ultimately losing out in a frantic finale. 

The struggles this season are a stark contrast to last, when they impressively made the NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble. 

"When it went good, it was because their hearts are in the right place for sure," said Spoelstra. 

"We are just grinding and trying to figure out how to get over the hump and try and give ourselves our best chance of winning.  

"It is just a matter of consistency to be able to do that throughout the course of the game.  

"Our group has a great spirit and a big-time sense of urgency. It is not a matter of that, it is a matter of finding a way to be consistent throughout. 

"There are a lot of moving parts. That makes it unique. You can’t make an excuse for it. You have to continue to grind, to learn and compete for each other. We just need to be more consistent with it."

Tyler Herro had 19 points as he returned after missing seven games with neck spasms, with Spoelstra hoping more players will follow soon. 

He added:  "We will be getting guys back soon enough. You get Tyler back and there is just a boost to it and that is encouraging.  

"Everyone in the locker room really wants to play better and in a perfect world we want to be in a better place than we are right now and we are not.  

"We just have to continue to grind." 

Nicolas Batum scored 18 points for the Clippers, one of their six players to reach double figures. Tyronn Lue's team improved to 14-5 on the season and have won eight of their last nine games.

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