clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Boston Celtics (0-2) at Miami Heat (2-0) ECF Game #3 6/21/23

The Eastern Conference Finals moves to Miami with the Celtics down 0-2 and in a must win position.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The series now shifts to Miami with the Celtics trailing 0-2. The Celtics lost the first game 123-116 after a terrible 3rd quarter in which they were out scored 46-25. In the 2nd game, the Celtics kept it close and were even up 96-87 with just over 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But, the Heat went on a 24-9 run to close out the game and get the 111-105 win on the Celtics home court.

The bad news is that the Celtics have to win on the road once again. The good news is that the Celtics have actually played better on the road over the past 2 playoff runs than they have at home. Over the last 2 years, the Celtics have been 20-21 at home but 12-6 on the road. The Celtics won 2 games in Atlanta in the first round. They then won 2 games in Philadelphia in the second round, including a Game 6 on the road to force a Game 7 at home.

History doesn’t favor a team that is down 0-2 in a series. Of 312 teams who have faced an 0-2 deficit in a 7 game series, only 27 teams have come back to win the series. That is just 8.7%. Only 5 of those 27 reams had lost the first 2 games at home. In 2017, the first seed Celtics lost the first two games at home to the 8th seed Bulls. That Celtics team featured Al Horford, rookie Jaylen Brown and 3rd year Marcus Smart. The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler. After losing the first 2 games at home, the Celtics went on to win the next 4 games to win the series.

It’s also possible to win a championship after starting a series off 0-2. The 2021 Milwaukee Bucks were down 0-2 to the Brooklyn Nets and went on to win that series in 7 games. Then, in the same playoff run, the Bucks started the Finals series down 0-2 to the Phoenix Suns. They fought their way back in that series to win in 6 games and to win the title. But the two series that the Bucks recovered from an 0-2 deficit, they lost the first 2 games on the road and not at home.

For the Celtics, Danilo Gallinari is the only player on the injury list at this time. He remains out as he rehabs from a torn ACL. For the Heat, Victor Oladipo is out for the season after having patellar tendon surgery in his left knee. Tyler Herro also remains out after breaking the middle and ring fingers on his right hand in the first round series against Milwaukee.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Payton Pritchard
Luke Kornet
Blake Griffin
Mike Muscala
Derrick White

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Heat Starters

PG: Gabe Vincent
SG: Max Strus
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Kevin Love
C: Bam Adebayo

Heat Reserves
Udonis Haslem
Haywood Highsmith
Nikola Jovic
Kyle Lowry
Caleb Martin
Duncan Robinson
Cody Zeller
Omer Yurtseven

2 Way Players
Jamal Cain
Dru Smith

Tyler Herro (hand) out
Victor Oladipo (knee) out

Head Coach
Erik Spoelstra

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Jimmy Butler
Butler finished Game 1 with 35 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals. He finished Game 2 with 27 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He shot 48% from the field and was just 0-1 on 3 pointers. He is a good defender and has been able to make things difficult for Jayson Tatum. Tatum has struggled in the 4th quarter of both games so far. He didn’t score in the 4th quarter of Game 1 and he missed all 3 shots he took but was 5-5 from the line in the 4th quarter of Game 2. The Celtics need more from him down the stretch in this game. They also need to find a way to limit Butler, especially down the stretch.

Robert Williams III vs Bam Adebayo
In Game 1, Adebayo had 20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal. In Game 2, he finished with 22 points, 17 rebounds, and 9 assists. He is dangerous around the basket to score and to grab rebounds. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint as well as off the boards. There have been calls to start Derrick White once again and stop the double big lineup. Whether Mazzulla does that or sticks with the double big, we will have to wait and see. It makes sense to want more of a 2nd team All Defense player who has been a plus for the Celtics all season.

Honorable Mention
Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White vs Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin
The heat have been winning the bench minutes with Lowry having a big Game 1 and Martin having a big Game 2. Lowry had 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in Game 1 and shot 50% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc. He was scoreless in Game 2, but Caleb Martin had 25 points, 4 rebounds 1 steal and 1 block while shooting 68.8% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. In Game 2, the Heat reserves outscored the Celtics reserves 42-33. The Celtics could use more from their reserves in this game on both ends of the court.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the biggest key to winning every game and is even more important in the playoffs. The Celtics defense has been inconsistent so far in the playoffs and was inconsistent from the first half to the second half in Game 1. In Games 6 and 7 against the 76ers, they showed how good they can be on defense, holding them to 86 and 88 points in those last 2 games. The Celtics allowed the Heat to shoot 65.4% from the field in the 3rd quarter of Game 1. The Heat shot 54.1% from the field and 51.6% from beyond the arc in Game 1. They were a little better in Game 2, but still allowed too many easy and wide open baskets. The Celtics simply must play better defense in this game, especially in the 4th quarter, if they want to win.

Rebound - As with defense, rebounding will always be a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to grab rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of the game as well. So far, we haven’t seen that extra effort on the boards from the Celtics in the first 2 games. The Heat had 35 rebounds in Game 1 to 34 rebounds for the Celtics. In Game 2, the Celtics were out rebounded 45-35 and the Heat put up 16 second chance points. The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Heat and win the rebounding battle if they want to win this game.

Take Care of the Ball - In both games so far, the Celtics have been sloppy with the ball and turned it over way too much. In Game 1, they had 15 turnovers for 22 Heat points. In Game 2, they had 15 turnovers once again for 20 Heat point. They have to make crisp passes and be aware of the defenders who are very good at getting into the passing lanes. They have to be careful when handling the ball and not dribble into a crowd and not get sloppy with the ball. They simply must be more focused on avoiding turnovers.

Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics can’t play the right way and play hard in the first half and then let up and stop playing hard and lose their focus. They also can’t let the Heat play harder from the start and build a big lead because it is not easy to come back against this heat team because they are good on defense. The Celtics have to come out focused and play hard from the opening tip and keep up the effort and focus until the final buzzer with no let ups and no loss of focus. The Celtics were up 96-87 with just over 6 minutes to play in Game 2 but seemed to lose focus and were outscored 24-9 the rest of the way. They have to play hard the whole game and not have any more of those lapses.

On the Road - The Celtics are playing on the road for the first time in this series. They need to get past the distractions of travel and being away from their homes and families and they have to keep from being rattled by the hostile crowd. Heat fans will want revenge for last year’s ECF loss and they will see the Celtics as vulnerable and be very vocal in support of their Heat. The Celtics have to tune that out and play their game the right way.

Coaching - The Heat have a top 10 coach, who has been with the Heat since 1997 and has been their head coach since 2008. Spoelstra has 12 playoff appearances, 9 division titles, 5 conference championships, and 2 championships as a coach. The Celtics’ coach was just thrown into the head coaching spot weeks before the season and is coaching in his first season. Mazzulla has come under much scrutiny for his lineup decisions, his lack of time outs, and other coaching decisions he has made. Spoelstra has clearly gotten the upper hand in both games so far. Can Mazzulla prove the doubters wrong and lead his team to a win in this one?

Officiating -Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the home team. Some favor the road team. Some just make bad, head scratching calls. At times the officials have an agenda of some sort. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls and no calls take them out of the game or affect their focus. Focus on playing the game and not on the officials.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog