The Miami Heat lost their first game in the 2023 Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. When Jimmy Butler, the Heat’s star player, was asked if he was concerned that the Celtics had gained momentum, he responded that the loss would build momentum for the Heat. While Butler’s response seemed counter-intuitive, it may be due to his ability to play mind games. The series between the Heat and Celtics has been characterized by unusual occurrences, and although Boston is up 3-1, the games have been unpredictable.
One example of the unusual occurrences in the series is the Celtics’ ability to win road games while facing elimination. In the past two postseasons, the Celtics have won four games while facing elimination on the road. This is a rare accomplishment, even for experienced players like LeBron James, who has only won two such games in his 20-year career. Despite their resilience, the Celtics struggle with consistency, with a 10-11 record at home in the past two postseasons.
The Heat have been defying expectations as well, winning eight games as an underdog in the postseason, which is the second-highest record in NBA history. The series has been unpredictable, with computer forecasting models giving the Celtics a 95% chance of winning the series even after falling 2-0 behind. The teams and players in the series seem to be creating a Venn diagram of strange occurrences, with the usual predictions not holding true. Despite being down 3-1, Butler’s response shows that the Heat still believe in their ability to win.