Miami is currently one victory away from the Finals after rendering Boston powerless.
MIAMI — There’s an ancient saying in sportswriting that says you can never say enough without saying nothing at all. Concentrate on just one or a few things. a major subject. Follow that up.
However, it’s impossible to pinpoint what went wrong in the Miami Heat’s 128-102 rout of the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday. Boston was completely outclassed by the Heat throughout the game.
Shooting. Defense. Execution. Aggression. Hustle. Whatever aspect of basketball you can think of, Miami won it. The Heat now lead this series 3-0, matching Denver’s lead in the West. Which means that our Finals matchup is essentially decided. A 3-0 deficit has never been overcome by a club to win a postseason series.
The Heat, who entered Sunday night shooting 43% as a team from beyond the arc in this series, were the fourth-worst 3-point shooting club in the league in terms of percentage during the regular season. Boston, on the other hand, made 31% of its shots. Miami maintained that pattern, making 46% of its 3-point attempts through the first three quarters compared to Boston’s 19%, giving it a 21-point advantage from beyond the arc.
That wasn’t a mistake. This is not mere chance. Miami is producing fantastic drives and kickoff looks. They are moving while destroying the Celtics in transition. It seems out of the ordinary, and it is, for Gabe Vincent to score 29 points on 11 of 14 shooting, including 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. However, Miami’s strategy produced those spectacular visuals, and the momentum they have been building throughout these playoffs is infectious. They deserve praise for it.
Erik Spoelstra, head coach of Miami, praised the team’s approach as “solid, mature, and professional” following the game. “We’re getting there, but this still needs to be finished. You can see how much everyone values this. We were successful in obtaining and maintaining the game on our terms. On Tuesday, we’ll unwind and clear our heads so we can finish this.
In the first two games, Boston’s fourth-quarter offense was a huge issue. In Game 3, it wasn’t significant. At the end of three, the Heat led by 30 points.
During the game, I sat next to a Boston reporter, and it’s funny how everyone observes the action on the court through their own window. The phrases “the Celtics are so stagnant” and “they can’t generate any offense” were frequently repeated, as though the team was and was continuing to lose to itself. Although Boston is not completely culpable in this situation, Miami should receive the most of the credit.
The fact that Miami is stifling everything defensively is the main reason, if not the main reason, why the Celtics appear to be so immobile. Boston is unable to get past the initial defender, and Miami quickly flies back out to shooters when even the appearance of downhill momentum is gained. Miami dips down off the wings to cut down driving lanes. It is a master class in defense.
Many people are scoffing at what the Heat are currently accomplishing, as if it were an accident. If you’re one of those folks, consider whether you’d still believe this to be a fluke if you didn’t have seed numbers in front of these teams.
Leave the seeds out. This playoff environment is unusual. The Heat are designed to win the playoffs, and the playing field is as even as it has been in a while. Anybody can shoot. Anyone can make a defense. They have a celebrity and a large man with many skills. They are profound. Cohesion. With their defensive rotations, ball swings, and other small details that pile up during this season, they are rock solid. They have a coach in the Hall of Fame.
As many teams do when they lose, the Celtics will view this as a failure on their part, and there is some truth to that. Boston struggled in the last moments of Games 1 and 2, so if they win even one of those, the series is still alive. Caleb Martin vastly outperforms Jaylen Brown. In many respects, Joe Mazzulla presents as a young head coach.
Miami, however, is to blame for making Boston a bit predictable. Since Tatum is the best player and Miami is shutting down everyone else, the Celtics tried to give him the ball early in Game 3. However, with the entire defense focusing on him at the top of the key and wing defenders prepared to dive in, Tatum ended up running into a sliding glass door that just kept closing whenever he tried to move forward.
“The belief is real,” declared Bam Adebayo. “And we have the desire to triumph,”
Tatum finished with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting, 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. Jimmy Butler didn’t even have a great game on Sunday, so you couldn’t say the Heat were lucky and relied solely on his heroics to win. On 13 attempts, he finished with 16 points. Miami kept rolling.
There comes a time when you just have to quit trying to refute something and accept it for what it is. Miami Heat are a reality. They really do exist. Everyone should get used to that thought, especially the Denver Nuggets.