Game 3 was a wire to wire Celtics 11 win after they lost the first two games by 3 and 5 points respectively. The Celtics led by as many as 20 points before allowing the Heat to come back to within 5 in the 4th quarter. But unlike games 1 and 2 when they collapsed when the Heat made their run to come back from a big deficit, the Celtics regrouped and finished the game strong to pull out the win.
The Celtics got a boost from the return of Gordon Hayward, who had been out since Game 1 of the first round. He played 30 minutes in Game 3 and did well in the days between that game and this one. He struggled with conditioning in Game 3 but knows that he can play now and should be ready for whatever is needed in this game.
Because Marcus Smart was very effective in guarding Goran Dragic in Game 3, I expect that he will continue to start and that Gordon Hayward will once again come off the bench but he should play play starters minutes, or close to it. Hayward is an excellent ball handler and brings a steadying hand when playing with the second unit.
After blowing a 17 point lead and losing Game 2, the Celtics had a shouting match that has been described as electrifying. It certainly pulled them together as they played team ball and showed hustle and heart throughout Game 3 to get back into the series. Hopefully they come out with the same determination and the same teamwork and the same hustle that we saw from them in Game 3.
Gordon Hayward has returned and is expected to play without limitations in this game. Javonte Green is also back from his knee injury. However, Romeo Langford had surgery on his injured wrist and will miss the rest of the post season. For the Heat, Andre Iguodala has had some back spasms but is expected to play. Gabe Vincent is questionable with knee soreness and Chris Silva is out with a pelvis injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Probable Heat Starters
Derrick Jones, Jr
Chris Silva (pelvis) out
Gabe Vincent (knee) questionable
Andre Iguodala (back) probable
Daniel Theis vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo has been the Heat’s best and most consistent player in the series so far. In Game 1, Adebayo had a key block to preserve the win for the Heat. In Game 2, he came up big in the second half, scoring more field goals in the 3rd quarter than the entire Celtics team. In Game 3, he finished with 27 points on 71% shooting to go with 16 rebounds and 1 assist. He is not a threat from the perimeter so the Celtics have to try to keep him out of the paint and away from the basket. Adebayo has been a thorn in the Celtics’ sides and the Celtics need to somehow limit him, whether it is with Theis, Grant Williams, Robert Williams, or Enes Kanter.
Marcus Smart vs Goran Dragic
Dragic is the main cog in the Heat’s offense and he pretty much had his way in Games 1 and 2. In Game 3, Brad Stevens moved Marcus Smart to be the primary defender for Dragic, who gave the Celtics problems in both of the first two games, averaging 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot 53% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc in Game 2. Against Smart in Game 3, he scored just 11 points on 2-10 shooting. He also had 5 turnovers. I expect to see Marcus once again on Dragic for this game and hopefully the Heat won’t have a counter for this.
Jaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler
Jaylen Brown is a key to this game. In games that Brown is aggressive and scores 25 points or more, the Celtics are 16-1. In Game 3, Brown was definitely aggressive and consistently drove to the hoop and was very aggressive on defense. He finished the game with a team high 26 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Butler finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists and was just 0-1 from beyond the arc. Getting aggressive Jaylen back for this game is a big key to evening up the series.
Gordon Hayward vs Tyler Herro
Assuming that Hayward once again comes off the bench this is a matchup of key reserves that play starters minutes. Hayward had 6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in Game 3. Herro had 22 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists on 44% shooting. Hayward gives the second unit stability that they don’t have otherwise and Herro comes in to give the Heat instant offense. Hayward needs to play well once again and the Celtics need to try to limit the effectiveness of Herro for the Heat.
Keys to the Game
Defense- Defense is the biggest key to winning playoff games. The Heat’s zone defense helped them to win both of the first two games. However, the Celtics were able to break the zone in Game 3 by being decisive and aggressive. The Celtics also clamped down with aggressive defense, holding the Heat to 38.8% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc in Game 3. The Celtics have to come out with the same defensive mindset in this game and keep the pressure on the Heat for 48 minutes of aggressive defense.
Rebound - In Game 1, Miami out rebounded the Celtics 41-37. In game 2 the Celtics out rebounded the Heat 41-38 but in the 4th quarter, there were a couple of times that 3 or 4 Celtics stood around watching the Heat swoop in for the rebound. Miami had 8 offensive rebounds in the second half, after grabbing just 3 in the first half. In Game 3, the Celtics out rebounded the Heat 50-42 and they were aggressive boxing out and going after rebounds the entire game. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics showed both in Game 3 and need that same aggressiveness and hustle in this game if they want to get a win.
Play Hard 48 Minutes- The Celtics played hard for 3 quarters and were up 12 points going into the 4th quarter of Game 1. They were up 17 points in the first half of Game 2. Then, they got complacent and let their foot off the gas and allowed the Heat to be the more aggressive team and to play harder in the second half of both games. The Celtics kept that same aggressive mindset throughout Game 3 and came away with the win. They need to remember that and once again play hard throughout the game with no let up. If they show any complacency at all, the Heat will take advantage and pull ahead.
Play Team Ball - The Celtics need to keep the ball moving and play team ball. The Celtics have played as a team in the first half of Games 1 and 2 and built leads that way. In the second half of both games, they went away from playing as a team and there was way too much of hero ball and isolation play. Hero ball rarely ends well as they become predictable and are much easier to defend. They have to make the extra pass and find the open man and the best shot and play as a team on every possession and not allow the Heat’s defense to take them away from that. They also have to be careful in making those passes and not turn the ball over.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics began both of the first 2 games as the more aggressive team. They built leads in the first half in both games. For whatever reason, they slacked off in the second half of those games and allowed the Heat to overcome big leads and win those games. In Game 3, the Celtics were the more aggressive game through out both halves. They were especially aggressive in going to the basket and not settling for outside shots and jumpers. The Celtics outscored the Heat 60-36 in the paint and that was a huge part of getting the win. They have to once again be aggressive in diving for loose balls and in defending every possession and in rebounding and especially in driving to the basket.
Coaching - Erik Spoelstra out-coached Brad Stevens in both Games 1 and 2. He has made the adjustments at the half to go to zone defense and his players have come out of halftime fired up. Brad Stevens got the better of Spoelstra with his adjustments in Game 3. Hopefully Brad has a few more tricks up his sleeve to throw Spoelstra and the Heat off their game once again.
Road Game - I know that home and road are completely different in the bubble but for some reason, it has been a very strange factor for the Celtics. In Round 2, the road team won every single game. It has been 46 days since the Celtics lost a “road” game and it has been 31 days since the Celtics have won a “home” game. Why this is happening is anyone’s guess. But, the Celtics are once again the “road” team and hopefully the pattern will hold and the Celtics will pull out another road win.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. While there isn’t really a home court advantage in the bubble, some refs may simulate one with their calls. Some just make bad, head scratching calls as we have seen in several of the games in the first 2 rounds. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls take away their focus. The officiating hasn’t been terrible in the first two games. Hopefully that trend will continue in this game.
However, we have the evil duo of Foster and Brothers in this game. With Scott Foster as the lead ref, it’s hard to tell what we will get in this one. At times he calls games one sided and is a tyrant with the whistle, calling every little thing and at other times he calls it evenly and lets them play. Tim Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes. He was voted the worst referee in the league by the players and coaches in an LA Times article. The Celtics are 8-2 with Foster in their last 10 games and 3-0 in the playoffs so far with him calling the game. Miami is 5-5 in their last 10 and 1-0 with Foster in the playoffs. He was lead official for Game 7 vs the Raptors, which was one of the best officiated games of the playoffs. He is definitely an x-factor.
Tony Brothers brings angst to every team’s fan base when they see him on the officiating team. He was voted the worst ref in the league by 24.5% of the players in their recent survey. With Brothers, you never know what you will get. Sometimes he calls everything on both teams. Sometimes he lets both teams play. And, sometimes he calls a game one sided for one of the teams. Basically, he is just bad. Hopefully we get the Tony Brothers that lets them play both ways in this game. Usually when fans of any team sees Brothers calling their games, they cringe. Both teams are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Brothers. He called Games 2 and 6 of the Toronto series. The third ref Tre Maddox hasn’t been particularly good or bad in the past.