1. There’s only one real Takeaway from Game 3.
Whew boy, were there turnovers.
The Boston Celtics gave the ball away 24 times in Game 3. The Miami Heat had 19 steals. That’s one off a single-game playoff record.
The Celtics had all kinds of turnovers. They lost the ball on passes, including five where Boston threw the pass directly to a stationary Miami defender.
They lost the ball on live dribbles seven times.
That’s 12 turnovers where the ball was directly given to the Heat. And, somehow, that’s only half of Boston’s giveaways!
2. Let’s continue, shall we? Because of the 24 turnovers, the Celtics allowed the Heat to score 33 points off turnovers.
Overall, Miami outscored Boston 33-9 in points off turnovers. A 24-point margin in a six-point game.
3. Beyond the 24 turnovers forced and 19 steals, the Heat had 29 deflections Game 3.
For reference, the Celtics made 310 passes in this game. That means Miami had one deflection for every 10 Boston passes. Yes, some deflections came off dribbles, but it’s still a telling stat.
Further context: Victor Oladipo did not play in the first half. He played 20:25 of the second half. He had eight deflections in those 20 minutes.
The Celtics had seven deflections as a team in 48 minutes.
4. 24 turnovers is a huge number. How huge? There are 48 minutes in a game. 24 turnovers means the Celtics threw it away, on average, once every-other-minute.
5. Let’s stick with more turnover madness!
22 of the 24 turnovers (there was one team turnover on a shot-clock violation) were committed by the five starters. Grant Williams, who essentially functioned as a starter after Daniel Theis was pulled at halftime, had the other turnover.
6. Staying with the above theme for a moment…only Marcus Smart (seven assists against four turnovers) had more assists than turnovers. The other five players (the five starters and Grant Williams) all had at least as many turnovers as assists in Game 3.
- Jaylen Brown – 1 assist, 7 turnovers
- Al Horford – 3 assists, 3 turnovers
- Jayson Tatum – 4 assists, 6 turnovers
- Daniel Theis – 1 assist, 2 turnovers
- Grant Williams – 0 assists, 1 turnover
7. Let’s zero in on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for a minute. Everyone else was relatively low in turnover numbers. The two Celtics stars were pushing the ball on the Heat like it was an “Everything must go!” sale.
Brown and Tatum roughly played the same amount of time in this game (42 minutes for Brown, 41 for Tatum). They both threw the ball away roughly the same amount. Essentially, for every six or so minutes these two were on the floor, they turned it over. Considering a lot of their 41-plus minutes overlapped, that figure was probably closer to turning it over once everything three minutes or so.
Now, Brown offset his sloppiness by scoring 40 points on 14-of-20 shooting. Tatum didn’t offset anything. He was just 3-of-14 from the floor and played one of his worst games.
To make this one really simple: The Celtics can’t win with their stars being this sloppy.
8. Moving off turnovers (finally!), let’s focus on one more sneakily sloppy thing that’s been percolating under the surface for a while.
Boston ranked second in the NBA in free throw shooting at 81.6% as a team. Their free throw rate was only league-average, but when they got there, they made opponents pay.
In this game, emblematic of the entire postseason, Boston missed seven free throws.
In the playoffs, almost every Celtic has seen their free throw percentage drop by just a little bit. It’s been offset by Boston getting to the line more than they did in the regular season, but the Celtics are still regularly leaving points off the board.
9. There aren’t any real silver linings from a wildly disappointing loss, but let’s look at a few positives really quickly.
- Jaylen Brown was a scoring machine. The Heat didn’t have an answer for him, especially in the second half. If he can just hang on to the ball better, Brown has the biggest mismatch in the series.
- The Celtics did fight back from 26 points down to make it a one-point game in the fourth quarter. Yes, it would be preferable to not have to fight back, but Boston doesn’t go quietly into that good night when they get down.
- Al Horford put together great game. It’s a shame that a couple of his best playoff performances have been wasted in losses.
- Lastly, after some real struggles in the first two-and-a-half games, Boston cleaned up their rebounding in a major way in the second half. It was the first time they got serious about keeping Miami off the offensive glass in the series.
10. Well…here we are again. The Boston Celtics are down 2-1 in the series. Apparently, this group of Celtics want nothing easy. And, apparently, they are perfectly willing to make things hard on themselves.
Yes, Game 3 was an incredible disappointment. A lack of effort and energy to open the game, followed by some unreal sloppiness throughout the game is disappointing. Not taking full advantage of Jimmy Butler missing the second half was also disappointing.
But...we move on. Once again, we have to believe in Boston, because they’ve given us no reason not to. Jayson Tatum has historically bounced back with a huge game after a bad one. There is no possible way the team will turn the ball over more in another game this series than they did in Game 3.
As bad as this one was, we turn the page. Heck, we rip the page out of the book and throw it into the fire. It’s about Game 4 now and the belief that the guys in green will be better next time, because for almost five months now, they have been better next time. Every single next time.
Game 4 is Monday, May 23 in Boston at 8:30 PM ET on ABC.