Erik Spoelstra’s team went into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals fully anticipating that it would be very difficult and that the Miami Heat would have to seize whatever chance a desperate Boston Celtics team could muster.
He was mistaken.
It was a rout by the Heat, and a group that had to mount a frenzied comeback just to qualify for the playoffs is now one victory away from the NBA Finals.
The eighth-seeded Heat easily defeated the Celtics 128-102 on Sunday night thanks to a career-high 29 points from Gabe Vincent and 22 points from Duncan Robinson. Miami is up 3-0 in the series and might complete an incredible sweep on Tuesday night at home in Game 4.
For Miami, Caleb Martin had 18 points, Jimmy Butler had 16, Bam Adebayo had 13, and Max Strus had 10. The Heat are 8-0 in best-of-seven series after winning the first three games; every team that has done so in NBA history has gone on to win the series in the end.
After Miami made 57% of its shots, Adebayo remarked that “the rim was as big as the ocean for everyone.”
The second-seeded Celtics, who won three games on Miami’s court en route to winning the East finals last season, were led by Jayson Tatum’s 14 points and Jaylen Brown’s 12. However, they simply never had a chance in this one and essentially emptied the bench for the fourth quarter.
Coach Joe Mazzulla of Boston remarked, “I just didn’t have them ready to play,” and he has received a lot of criticism during this series and will undoubtedly receive more heading into Tuesday. “I have to get them in a better place, ready to play, regardless of what it was, whether it was the starting lineup or an adjustment. That’s my fault.
For Boston, Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard each added 12.
To their credit, Brown remarked, “they’re playing way above their means.” They are currently crushing it, and I have to appreciate that. Guys that we ought to be able to control, like Duncan Robinson, Martin, Strus, and Gabe Vincent, are playing their (butt) off.
The NBA Finals begin on June 1, and given the current state of play, the league may soon be without games for a few days. Denver has a 3-0 series advantage against the Los Angeles Lakers, which might mean the Western Conference finals are over on Monday. The East finals could potentially conclude on Tuesday.
It’s the first to four games, according to Vincent. “Three is not enough for us.”
It never happened in a season, but it did in 1957 in the division finals that came before the championship series, when Boston defeated Syracuse 3-0 and St. Louis defeated Minneapolis 3-0.
Of all the 3-0 series leads in NBA history, this one might be the most unexpected — a No. 8 seed in the Heat, a team that struggled just to make the playoffs, a team that was less than 3 minutes away from being eliminated in the play-in tournament, getting past top-seeded Milwaukee in five games, then fifth-seeded New York in six, and now on the verge of preventing the Celtics from winning the East for a second straight season.
Butler signalled a timeout to Boston’s Al Horford in Game 3’s third quarter as the Heat were cruising to victory. Horford had previously signalled a timeout to Miami’s bench during Game 1’s second-quarter Celtics surge to build a comfortable lead.
In any case, the Heat came back to win Game 1. The Heat did not need to rally in Game 3. For that matter, the Celtics hardly made any attempts.
Brown remarked, “I don’t even know where to begin. It’s a blatant letdown. I believe that we let our organisation and fan base down. We failed ourselves. And it involved everyone. We can blame, but the truth is that it was embarrassing.
Marcus Smart’s three-point play on Boston’s first possession of the second half brought Boston within 61-49. The remainder was all Miami, which stepped up with a 28-7 run to create a 33-point advantage at 89-56, sending the arena into overdrive. The 20,088-person sellout audience was actually a little sombre by the time it was over because the lead was so large and there was so much time left.