Both the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are two of the better defensive teams in the entire league, but they seemed to have had some issues with each other in two games of this series of Eastern Conference Finals.
In Game 1, the Heat dismantled the Celtics’ defense and got nearly every shot they wanted in a 118-107 win. However, in Game 2 the script was reversed and the Celtics defeated the Heat, beating them 127-102 to level the series 1-1.
Heading into Game 3, it seemed like the Celtics had the momentum of a Game 2 road win, but Miami came out in the first quarter and immediately started with a 24-7 run to open the game, grabbing a 39 -18 lead at the end of the first. At halftime, the Heat led by 15 points.
The second half of Game 3 on Saturday was a little strange, not only because of all the injured players, but also because the Celtics were able to start penetrating Miami’s lead even though their offense didn’t play well.
Jaylen Brown was the catalyst for them all night as he finished the game with 40 points and 9 rebounds, but All-Star Jayson Tatum only had 10 points for the Celtics.
While they cut the Heat’s lead to just a point in the fourth quarter, Miami reclaimed its home field advantage in the series with a 109-103 win.
Bam Adebayo was fantastic for the Heat, scoring 31 points, his first 30-point game since March 11 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and turnovers really killed Boston’s chance for a comeback when the Celtics grabbed the ball 24 times in Game 3 turned around
The Heat, who now lead this series 2-1, are in the driver’s seat and have put all the pressure back on the Celtics, who will head into Game 4 on Monday, with the mentality of this game being a must-win scenario .
Game 3 ended up being a very conflicting affair between the Celtics and Heat, but here are three key things we can take away from this game.
Bam Adebayo performed
After Boston’s win in Miami in Game 2, we talked about Bam Adebayo’s struggles and how he had to stand up for the Heat to reach the NBA Finals this series, especially since he’s the second best player on their roster!
Well, it looks like Adebayo took all the criticism thrown at him to heart when the all-star big man made a big comeback for the Heat in Game 3.
Not only did he record 31 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 1 block, but Adebayo rose to lead the Heat with Jimmy Butler missing the entire second half due to a right knee infection.
Without the Celtics having Robert Williams III, Bam Adebayo looked highly motivated and extremely aggressive early in that game, scoring 12 points in the first quarter of that game, which helped the Heat build their early 20+ point lead in the first half.
While things got a little tight late in the game as the Celtics made a comeback attempt, Bam Adebayo called for the ball late in the fourth quarter and hit every big throw he needed. Not to mention, Adebayo was a threat on the defensive end of the floor all night, protecting the rim and getting his hands on almost every ball that crossed the paint.
Entering this series, the big question I asked myself was, “Who will be the third star to rise?”
Jayson Tatum will do his thing for the Celtics and Jimmy Butler will do his thing for the Heat, but who of Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Marcus Smart would emerge as the third best player between these two teams?
Jaylen Brown scored 40 points for Boston on Saturday night, but Bam Adebayo’s presence at both ends of the court really helped Miami seal the deal on this one. Going forward, Adebayo will need to play with the same intensity and aggressiveness for the Heat to be successful.
Victor Oladipo is still a great defender on the ball
Remember the 2017/18 season when Victor Oladipo led the league in steals, was named to the All-Defensive First Team and received some attention as Defensive Player of the Year?
Although he has since suffered some serious leg injuries and has undergone multiple surgeries to treat those injuries, Oladipo proved on Saturday night he can still make a huge difference on the defensive end of the floor.
Not only did he move well defensively in Game 3, but Victor Oladipo really gave the Celtics a headache.
After not playing at all in the first half, the former All-Star guard came on for the injured Jimmy Butler and logged 20 minutes in the second half.
He might only have 5 points on 1-4 shooting, but Oladipo finished the game with 4 steals and was all over the defensive end of the floor for the Heat, bouncing the ball multiple times and really giving Jaylen Brown both and Jayson Tatum had it in perimeter heavy as he guarded her.
Between Victor Oladipo, PJ Tucker and Kyle Lowry, it looked like the Heat had three all-defensive players out on the rim guarding the Celtics and they also had Bam Adebayo, who recently moved to the all-defensive this year Second Team was appointed. deep in the paint as rim protection.
Oladipo’s presence on the Heat roster wasn’t that great offensively, but he really stepped up on defense and proved he can still play at a high level.
The Heat have been building their identity at the defensive end of the floor all year and with Victor Oladipo now being promoted it’s really difficult to spot faults for them at that end. Oladipo is a true difference maker for Miami’s defense.
Lack of depth hurts Boston…literally!
All year long, the story for the Boston Celtics has been that they have virtually no depth and their bench is a mess.
Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard have been promoted in Boston’s second unit at times, but they really are a team looking to play with just their five starters. In Game 3, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford all played over 40 minutes and if Marcus Smart hadn’t been struggling with a sprained ankle he would have played over 40 minutes as well.
Derrick White, Payton Pritchard and Grant Williams are really the only benching options for Boston, and if they don’t hit shots like in Game 3, the Celtics won’t have a bench at all.
Not only does this cause fatigue and a lack of energy for the Celtics in the starting XI, but it also puts them at risk of injury, which we saw on Saturday.
With Boston being locked down defensively and how aggressively they play at that end of the court, the Celtics are a little more prone to getting into the game, and in Game 3 both Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart left the game with injuries.
Smart suffered a gruesome looking ankle injury that looked much worse than it turned out when he returned to the game minutes later, and Tatum briefly left the game with what appeared to be a worrying shoulder injury.
Again both players returned but with the Celtics having no depth behind these guys they are in trouble at the moment. Mentally they look exhausted and not only are they playing another physical defensive team in the Miami Heat, but the Heat have a lot more depth than the Celtics.
Boston can’t control injuries, but the lack of power they’re receiving from their bench definitely doesn’t help their starting unit in any way.
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- Celtics’ Jayson Tatum has a very brave quote after losing Game 3 in the Heat: Jayson Tatum met with the media after the Boston Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. CLICK HERE.
- Jimmy Butler INJURY UPDATE: Chris Haynes from Yahoo! reported an injury update from Jimmy Butler. The Star Guard exited Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. CLICK HERE.