Both the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are two of the better defensive teams in the entire league, yet they have seemed to have some trouble with one another through two games in this Eastern Conference Finals series.
In Game 1, the Heat picked apart the Celtics’ defense, getting almost every shot that they wanted in a 118-107 victory. In Game 2 however, the script was flipped and the Celtics trounced the Heat, beating them 127-102 to even the series at 1-1.
Heading into Game 3, it appeared as if the Celtics had the momentum coming off a Game 2 road victory, but Miami came out dealing in the first quarter, immediately going on a 24-7 run to open the game and taking 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 weird not only because of all the players that were getting injured, but because the Celtics were able to begin cutting into Miami’s lead even though their offense was not playing well.
Jaylen Brown was the catalyst for them all night long, 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 one point in the fourth quarter, Miami was able to hold on and pick up a 109-103 victory to reclaim their home court advantage in the series.
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 at a comeback, as the Celtics turned the ball over 24 times in Game 3.
Now leading this series 2-1, the Heat are in the driver's seat and have put all the pressure back on the Celtics, who will enter Game 4 on Monday with the mentality of that game being a “must-win” scenario.
Game 3 ended up being a very inconsistent affair between the Celtics and Heat, but here are three key things we can take away from this game.
Bam Adebayo Stepped Up
Following Boston’s victory in Miami in Game 2, we talked about Bam Adebayo’s struggles and how he needed to step up for the Heat in this series in order for them to reach the NBA Finals, especially since he is the second-best player on their roster!
Well, it looks like Adebayo took all of the criticism that was directed at him to heart, as the All-Star big man showed up in a big way for the Heat in Game 3.
Not only did he record 31 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 1 block, but Adebayo stepped up to be the Heat’s leader with Jimmy Butler missing the entire second-half due to right knee inflammation.
Without the Celtics having Robert Williams III, Bam Adebayo looked highly motivated and extremely aggressive early on in this game, scoring 12 points in the first quarter of this game, helping the Heat create their early 20-plus-point lead in the first-half.
While things got a little close late in the game with the Celtics staging a comeback attempt, Bam Adebayo demanded the ball late in the fourth quarter and hit every big shot he needed to. Not to mention, Adebayo was a menace on the defensive-end of the floor all night long protecting the rim and getting his hands on almost every ball that crossed the paint.
Entering this series, the big question I have been asking is, “Who will be the third star to step up?”
Jayson Tatum will do his thing for the Celtics and Jimmy Butler will do his thing for the Heat, but out of Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Marcus Smart, who 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 on both ends of the court really helped Miami seal the deal in this one. Moving forward, Adebayo must play with this same intensity and aggressiveness for the Heat to be successful.
Victor Oladipo Is Still A Terrific On-Ball Defender
Remember back during the 2017-18 season when Victor Oladipo led the league in steals, was named to the All-Defensive First Team and was receiving some attention for Defensive Player of the Year?
While he has suffered some significant leg injuries since then and has had multiple surgeries to address said injuries, Oladipo proved on Saturday night that he can still make a massive difference on the defensive-end of the floor.
Not only did he move well defensively in Game 3, but Victor Oladipo really caused a lot of headaches for the Celtics.
After not playing at all in the first-half, the former All-Star guard subbed in for the injured Jimmy Butler and logged 20 minutes in the second-half.
He may have only had 5 points on 1-4 shooting, but Oladipo finished with 4 steals and was all over the place on the defensive-end of the floor for the Heat, knocking the ball loose on several occasions and really giving both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum a hard time on the perimeter when he was guarding them.
Between Victor Oladipo, P.J. Tucker and Kyle Lowry, the Heat looked like they had three All-Defensive players out on the perimeter guarding the Celtics, plus they still had Bam Adebayo, who was recently named to the All-Defensive Second Team this year, down low in the paint as a rim-protector.
Oladipo’s presence on the Heat’s roster has not been that great offensively, but on defense, he has really stepped up and proven that he can still play at a high-level.
The Heat have built their identity on the defensive-end of the floor all year long and with Victor Oladipo stepping up now, it is really hard to spot flaws for them on this end. Oladipo is a true difference-maker for Miami’s defense.
Lack Of Depth Is Hurting Boston… Literally!
All year long, the story for the Boston Celtics has been how they have virtually no depth and that their bench is a mess.
Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard have stepped up at times in Boston’s second-unit, but they truly are a team that looks to play with just their starting-five. In Game 3, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford all played 40-plus minutes and if Marcus Smart had not been dealing with an ankle sprain, he would have played 40-plus minutes as well.
Derrick White, Payton Pritchard and Grant Williams are really the only bench options for Boston and if they are not hitting shots like what transpired in Game 3, then the Celtics have no bench whatsoever.
Not only does this cause fatigue and lack of energy for the Celtics’ starting-five, but this increases the risk of injury to them and we saw this on Saturday.
Because of how locked in Boston is defensively and how aggressive they play on that end of the floor, the Celtics are a little more susceptible to getting dinged up 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 to be, as he returned to the game several minutes later, and Tatum also left the game for a short period of time with what looked to be a concerning shoulder injury.
Again, both players returned, but having no depth behind these guys, the Celtics are in a bit of trouble right now. Mentally, they look exhausted and they are not only playing against another physical defensive team in the Miami Heat, but the Heat have much more depth than the likes of the Celtics.
Boston cannot control injuries, but the lack of production they are receiving from their bench definitely does not help their starting-unit in any way.
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- Celtics' Jayson Tatum Has A Very Bold Quote After Loss In Game 3 To 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 of Yahoo! reported an injury update on Jimmy Butler. The star guard left Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. CLICK HERE.