SI:AM | Celtics Should Be At Least a Little Nervous

Can the Heat pull it off again?
Can Miami pull off another upset vs. Boston?
Can Miami pull off another upset vs. Boston? / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I wonder how many of the heralded quarterback prospects slated to go in the first round of tonight’s NFL draft are actually going to pan out.

In today’s SI:AM: 

🔥 Heat win Game 2
🏈 Albert Breer’s final mock draft
10 bold draft predictions

All tied going to Miami

We really shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Miami Heat do in the playoffs. Having the best coach in the league means they’re better at exceeding expectations than any other team. They’ve reached the NBA Finals in two of the last four postseasons despite only once having finished above fifth place in the East. Their run through the playoffs last year to reach the Finals after surviving the play-in tournament to qualify as the No. 8 seed was as thrilling as it was improbable.

Last year’s run was highlighted by a seven-game victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, so when Miami once again prevailed in the play-in to set up a first-round rematch with the top-seeded Celtics, it certainly raised a few eyebrows. But this is a way different Miami team from the one that gave the Celtics fits last year. Of the seven players who appeared in all seven games of last year’s series, three are no longer on the Heat roster (Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry). Most crucially, Jimmy Butler, who averaged 24.7 points per game in that series, is sidelined due to a knee injury. Another starter, Terry Rozier, is out with a neck issue.

After Boston cruised to a 114–94 victory in Game 1 on Sunday, it certainly looked as though the Heat weren’t destined for another Cinderella run. But Miami flipped the script on Wednesday night with an impressive 111–101 win in Game 2 to even the series as it shifts to Miami.

The big difference for the Heat was their three-point shooting. After going 12 for 37 (32.4%) from deep in Game 1, Miami shot the lights out in Game 2, hitting 23 of 43 (53.5%) three-point attempts. Only three Miami players hit more than one three-pointer in Game 1. Six hit multiple threes in Game 2. The 23 made threes were a Heat playoff record.

Three Heat players scored at least 21 points (Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin). Herro also had 14 assists, Adebayo had 10 rebounds and second-year player Nikola Jović had an excellent game with 11 points, nine rebounds and tied a career high with six assists.

“I think it was realizing that being passive [as shooters] hurts us. We’d just be playing into their game plan,” Martin told reporters. “We’re too good of a shooting team to hesitate from three.”

Martin is right. The Heat are a good shooting team. But do you know who’s better? The Celtics. Miami shot 37% from three this season, 12th-best in the NBA. Boston ranked second at 38.8%. In Game 1 it was Boston that buried three after three, hitting 22 of its 49 attempts from deep.

Three-point shooting is one of those things that ebbs and flows. Miami got hot in Game 2 and was able to pull off an upset victory, but there’s no guarantee that its shooters are going to be able to keep it up for the rest of the series. Right now, though, that looks like it might be the only way the Heat are going to be able to win. It would be a more even matchup if Butler and Rozier were available, but both are unlikely to be able to return by the end of the series. Can this diminished version of the Heat win three out of its next five against the team with the best record in the NBA?

Losing one game against a team having a historic shooting night shouldn’t change how we think about the Celtics. But it should be a reminder that the Heat—shorthanded though they may be—are still capable of punching above their weight. That should be enough to have Celtics fans slightly nervous about the possibility of a repeat of last year’s upset.

Staff set up during for NFL Draft Experience at Hart Plaza in Detroit on Wednesday, April 24, 2024.
The 2024 NFL draft kicks off Thursday night in Detroit. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The best of Sports Illustrated

The top five…

… things I saw last night: 

5. Juan Soto’s homer to dead center that left JJ Bleday’s glove sitting on top of the wall.
4. Anže Kopitar’s overtime game-winner for the Kings to tie their series against the Oilers.
3. The Thunder fan who hit a half-court shot to win $20,000.
2. Back-to-back sprawling saves by Stars goalie Jake Oettinger. (The Golden Knights went on to win the game, 3–1, though.)
1. Elly De La Cruz’s impressive display of speed. He singled, stole second, stole third and then scored on a sacrifice fly.


Published
Dan Gartland

DAN GARTLAND

Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).