If the Boston Celtics go 3-0 down in the Eastern Conference Finals, it won’t happen because they allowed the Miami Heat to determine the terms of the engagement. Three and a half minutes into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday, they won the rim three times. By the end of the third quarter, the Heat had 50 points to 22 in the Heat.
Unlike Game 2, the Celtics’ guilt didn’t stop when Miami went into its 2-3 zone. They made quick decisions and used the aggression of the heat against them and deliberately attacked the paint. With a 117-106 win, Boston are trailing 2-1 in the series.
Jaylan Brown was a lunatic on defense and played the best all-around game in the playoffs. He scored 26 points in 11-for-17 shooting and seven rebounds, five assists, three styles and a block in 42 minutes. Jason Tatum had 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Kemba Walker added 21 points in the 8-for-16 shooting.
Miami fired at 33 for 85 but kept going until the last minute. Center Bam Adebayo had 27 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and two styles in the 10-for-14 shooting. Tyler Hero scored 22 points from the bench and dropped four assists, but did all his damage in the first half.
Boston led the way with 13 points at halftime and 19 points in third place. The Heat advanced 11-1 in the third quarter and briefly threatened to pull off a comeback that sank the Celtics in each of the first two games. Boston responded 7-0 with a margin of 19 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Miami were able to make it fun in fourth place, reducing the deficit to five points, but it was hard to win from behind as they shot 4-for-26 from a 3-point range in the second half.
Here are three takeaways:
1. If they keep doing it
Every NBA team is frustrated for the big wings that can save multiple places. Regardless of location, each team tries to compile a list of players who can dribble, pass and shoot. In the widest possible terms, the two previous number 3 picks that fit these descriptions are Boston lucky.
The Celtics have a chance of winning the championship because they can play games like Jason Tat and Jaylan Brown. This When they are most needed. If a single sequence serves as a microcosm of the evening, Brown starts a quick break with a block in the Goran Drag and Tatum finishes it off with a powerful dunk.
The best part of that play? Brown’s ridiculously fast recovery after Dragik’s ball was faked. He was everywhere in Game 3, forcing turnovers and putting pressure on the Miami defense to not see the ball carelessly.
Tat and Brown realized that Miami needed to respond to them. However, the most encouraging thing is that they didn’t force a ton of bad shots. It’s not natural to create for others at this stage of your career, but it comes with them. When they get the stops and score in the conversion, it is very difficult for Boston to beat.
“We really wanted to attack,” Stevens said. “If we put it on the floor, we want to get to the edge and play a play for ourselves or others. And if we don’t put pressure on the ball defensively, waiting to be attacked, we stink, so let’s see if we can put pressure on and get better.
Stevens said he had no problem losing to Celtics on Thursday. For him, it was more about how they lost and who the Celtics were going to show themselves to be. If they are – that’s how Tat and Brown are going to perform – then Miami will have to play at a much higher level than they did in Game 3.
2. Yes, there is
When Gordon Howard returned to the line for the first time after spraining his right ankle in Game 1 in the first round, Boston found themselves again. Howard got off the bench and his presence was put to good use by all the bench lineups.
After a month-long vacation, Howard did not criminally steal the show. He agrees with what Celtics does, running picks and rolls, moving without the ball, and serving as a connector. Boston went into its neutral focus – Walker, Howard, Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart – twice, the amount of playmaking on the court was clear.
“It’s all about bringing him back,” Tatum said, adding that the team is “more dynamic, more diverse, and much better.”
Stevens did not expect Howard to play 31 minutes, but some bad issues made it necessary and made it possible for an extended break to come. He scored just six points in 2-for-7 shooting, but had four assists, five rebounds, three styles and a block.
“He is a force that gives stability to our team,” Sevens said. “He can play right at the right time and play one for someone else.”
An example: With about three minutes left in the game, Boston had a 10-point lead, and the Heat seemed to be about to make a stop. The Celtics shot tried to make the most of the clock but it failed until Howard set up a drive and kick corner 3 for Howard.
Considering how aggressive they are going to be, it’s amazing that the Heat were at 63-50 at halftime. The Boston game began with the Smart Guarding Drag, an arrangement aimed at intercepting the Dragik-Adebayo pick and roll.
Although Adebayo was amazing, it was a success – Dragik could not find any kind of rhythm. Jimmy Butler was not particularly firm, and if not for Hero’s heroics, the first half would have been a disaster for Miami.
Hero scored 18 points in the first half of the 6-for-10 shooting, including 6 for 4 from deep. In a stretch that lasted two minutes and 17 seconds, he made four jumpers in a row, three of which were from behind the arc.
Boston should be happy with how Hero limited in the second half, however, the Heat need to figure out what happens in the slow start. Miami may have the lead in this series, but its offensive issues make it even more disturbing. The Celtics played a better and more aggressive game on Saturday, and the Heat have a few days to figure out how to react in a similar way.