NBA Playoffs 2022: The Boston Celtics' chances against the Miami Heat hinge on getting Marcus Smart and Al Horford back

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat turned an eight-point halftime deficit into an 11-point Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics to take an early lead in the 2022 Eastern Conference finals, and look to take a commanding two-game lead Thursday at home in Game 2 (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).

The lessons from Game 1 are simple: If the Celtics continue to be short-handed, Jimmy Butler and the top-seeded Heat are the favorites in the series (which wasn't the case three days ago according to the bookmakers in Las Vegas). With Al Horford and Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, missing from Boston's rotation, Miami has the best defense in this series, and Boston's thinned-out and fatigued rotation could be its fatal flaw.

Early in Game 1, things were looking good for Boston, but the game took a drastic turn in the third quarter. In the first half it looked like Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams could get any shot they wanted, but by the final buzzer, Bam Adebayo and Miami's defense had flipped the script and reestablished the Heat's defensive pride.