The Heat shocked the basketball world with a first-round upset of the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks. They were willful and relentless.
They were just getting started.
Sunday night, Miami ripped the heart out of the Boston Celtics with a dominating 128-102 win to take a 3-0 series lead. Game 4 is Tuesday night. After watching this game it’s tough to picture the series returning to Boston.
1) Miami is impressive, but this is an epic Boston collapse
It’s hard to sum up how ugly the Celtics’ night was, but if one clip could do so it is this: Duncan Robinson — who took 85.6% of his shots this season with zero or one dribble, who is not considered an NBA shot creator— cooking Second Team All-Defense Derrick White off the bounce to set up the Bam Adebayo alley-oop.
THROW IT DOWN BAM 💥 pic.twitter.com/zuuAEqlu7J
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 22, 2023
Credit Robinson for the play, but this was a dreadful, heartless outing by the Celtics when they should have played with desperation.
“I don’t even know where to start. Obvious letdown. We let our fanbase and organization down…” Jaylen Brown said. “It was embarrassing.”
“I just didn’t have them ready to play,” coach Joe Mazzulla said.
The problems run deep in Boston, on both sides of the ball.
When Mazzulla took over as coach he wanted the Celtics to embrace the 3-ball more, including getting up at least 40 in Game 3. They did, but all those 3s come with variance — when the 3s fall the Celtics are almost unbeatable but when they don’t it could get ugly.
The Celtics were 11-of-42 (26.2%) from 3 in Game 3. The Heat were sharp and contesting shots, and the Celtics settled for too many no-dribble 3s that felt rushed. It was ugly.
So were the performances of their All-NBA stars. Jayson Tatum had 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting, Jaylen Brown 12 points and 6-of-17 shooting, and they combined for four assists and six turnovers. They drove into double- and triple-teams but did not find the open man and settled for a lot of contested shots.
As bad as the offense was, the Celtics’ drop-off in defense was harder to grasp.
Boston made the Finals a year ago on the back of an elite defense, and they were third in the NBA in defense during this regular season (even if, in part due to injuries, this year’s defense did not feel as intimidating as the past couple of year’s defense had been). It still took until deep in the second quarter before the Celtics through steady double-teams at Jimmy Butler, but by then they were in a deep hole (and not scoring enough to climb out of it).
Not sure there is enough bandwidth on the internet to list all the things that went wrong for Boston, and coach Joe Mazzulla has to take the blame for plenty of them (slow adjustments, the lack of timeouts during runs), but the missed wide-open 3s and the lack of urgency from a group of professional athletes is not on him.
Brad Stevens and the Celtics need to look in the mirror and answer some hard questions this summer.
2) Heat role players step up. Again.
When a reporter referred to the key roles undrafted players have in the Heat rotation last game, Erik Spoelstra stuck up for them saying don’t call Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin the undrafted guys, they have earned the right to be called NBA players. Quality NBA players.
He’s right. And those guys stepped up in Game 3.
Gabe Vincent scored 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting, Duncan Robinson scored 22 off the bench, Caleb Martin added 18, and Max Strus had 10.
If a team finds just one player like Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus or Gabe Vincent, it's a job well done.
The @MiamiHEAT have all four… and they've been SPECIAL in the East Finals 🔥 pic.twitter.com/KJLR0vouOl
— NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2023
Jimmy Butler added 16 points and eight rebounds. Bam Adebayo had a dunk fest.
BAM WAS THROWING IT DOWN IN GAME 3 😳
The @MiamiHEAT are up 3-0 in the East Finals. pic.twitter.com/pZv5jdMZN1
— NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2023
Championship teams, Finals teams get there both because their stars step up, but so do their role players. Miami has had plenty of that.
3) Jimmy Butler and the Heat were taunting (and they earned the right)
Jimmy Butler was talking trash. He has earned the right but he was clearly savoring it.
Butler pointed at Grant Williams after this bucket.
Jimmy pointed at Grant Williams after this bucket 😅 pic.twitter.com/iWm0vyIakx
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 22, 2023
And Butler remembered Horford’s timeout taunt from Game 1 and gave it right back to him.
Jimmy. Butler. Does. Not. Forget. 🔥pic.twitter.com/oBIPCrTFiR
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 22, 2023
We’ll see if Boston fights back or there will be more Heat trash talk in Game 4.