The Boston Celtics entered Sunday night’s Game 3 in a hole unlike any they’ve faced in the past two postseasons. Having dropped consecutive games at home to Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat, the Celtics took the court tonight looking to ward off the touch of death for any playoff team — a 0-3 series deficit. With their backs against the wall, the Celtics ultimately crumbled. They fell to the Heat in a blowout, 128-102, and now will have to become the first team in NBA history to come back from an 0-3 deficit if they want to return to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 26 points, and neither made their presence felt tonight. Miami, meanwhile, fired on all cylinders in the way they have seemed to do all postseason long. Gabe Vincent outpaced Tatum and Brown on his own, scoring 29 and connecting on six threes. Six Heat players scored in double figures, and as a team, they scorched the nets to the tune of 54% three-point shooting. It was a collective effort, and they outmatched the Celtics on both ends of the floor.
After struggling through one of the worst games of his season in Game 3, Brown made an impact early in this game. He scored eight points in the first few minutes, finding his rhythm with the midrange jumper and bring his customary juice to the Boston offense. His teammates did not follow suit, however. The Celtics struggled to maintain control of the ball (six first quarter turnovers) and the Heat once again enjoyed hot shooting from deep (five threes), and Miami led by eight entering the second, 30-22.
Midway through the first quarter, Miami’s Kevin Love appeared to suffer an injury and asked Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to take him out of the game. Love departed for the locker room after the ensuing timeout and was diagnosed with a left ankle injury. He was labeled as questionable to return to the game, and ultimately did not do so.
The Celtics’ outlook worsened in the early minutes of the second quarter. They just looked a bit listless, and the Heat’s scoring tirade showed no signs of slowing down. Miami splashed threes and dominated inside, including a pair of highlight-reel dunks from Adebayo, and their lead stretched as far as 21 points. A 9-2 run late in the quarter helped the Celtics avoid an absolute disaster, but they nonetheless entered the halftime break with a lot of questions in need of answers, trailing 61-46.
If anything positive came of that late run, it wasn’t evident as play resumed in the third quarter. The Heat rattled off a 13-2 run early in the quarter, pushing their lead up to 23 points. The only way to describe Miami’s play against was “unbothered.” They simply didn’t care about anything the Celtics tried to do on either end of the court, and the Celtics increasingly appeared to be losing hope. They allowed the Heat to eclipse the 30 point mark for the third straight quarter, and trailed by 30 points, 93-63, heading into what felt like a very long fourth quarter.
Next up, the series will stay in Miami, with another one-day layoff before Game 4, Tuesday at 8:30 PM on TNT.