Boston Celtics: Player grades from impassioned game 3 win over Miami

Boston Celtics (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics are finally on the board with a game three victory as they gutted out an impressive 117-106 advantage, delivering Miami’s second playoff loss thus far.

After a reported inter-squad tension became the talking point of their challenging game two loss, the Boston Celtics came out focused and dialed in as they never trailed during game three.

The Cs had some very efficient and well-executed stretches of basketball, especially when they reverted to their death lineup. Said lineup, consisting of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and a recently returned Gordon Hayward, ended up closing out the first half (final 2:39) and an awe-inspiring +9 stretch was had.

Let’s just quickly recap what occurred during this time, as this was almost picture-perfect basketball for the green team.

With the Miami Heat closing in on Boston’s lead of 52-48, Brown stole the ball from Jimmy Butler, and tossed it ahead for a Tatum slam. After that, the All-Star snatched a rebound and quickly returned the favor to Brown, as now Brown gets his own transition dunk.

Jaylen then got his second steal and laid it home on the other end, a play that could have also warranted an and-one call.

Butler missed a shot on the other end, Kemba Walker grabs the rebound, Smart hits a floater. After two Dragic free throws, which were the only points, Walker converted on a three-pointer to end the half 63-50, as the Boston Celtics’ version of their death lineup went +9 during this stretch.

A very promising sign for Cs fans across the globe.

The Heat had an off night shooting wise as they went 26 percent from beyond the arc compared to an impressive 46 percent from the Celtics.

Andre Igoudala and Kendrick Nunn only saw a combined 11 minutes of action, as Boston’s small-ball units seemed to force Miami’s hand.

So, let’s cut to the chase and dish out some impressive, honor roll deserving player grades for the Celtics game three victory:

Kemba Walker: A- 

Initially starting outmatched up against Jae Crowder, Kemba Walker played top-notch on-ball defense even against Goron Dragic. Through both games one and two, Dragic had been the C’s kryptonite, but game three was a different story as they were right on his heels with every spin he threw at them.

Dragic finished with only 11 points on 20 percent shooting, as Kemba came through with some critical defensive stops against the crafty Heat point guard.

On the other side of the floor, the UConn product was +10 for the night, scoring 21 points on 50 percent shooting and grabbed six rebounds despite turning the ball over on four separate occasions.

Walker wasn’t called upon to do as much playmaking than previous outings, but overall this was an excellent performance, one deserving of such a high mark.

Jayson Tatum: A

Jayson Tatum is the type of player who wows you with his highlights, then you look around and he almost has a triple-double.

A +23 for the night, Tatum was two assists short on completing such a task, as his 14 rebounds made up for 28 percent of Boston’s total boards.

While his 25 points on 45 percent shooting on the night may not warrant an overall A grade, his misses were, in typical Tatum fashion, tough misses.

The Duke swingman went 5-5 from the free-throw line as his transition play, and slices to the basket were all with a purpose, again, a promising sign for what appears to be a closely contested game 4.

Jaylen Brown: A

Jaylen Brown struck early and often throughout game three, as one could describe his body of work as aggressively efficient.

While this wasn’t his best scoring performance thus far in the playoffs, one could rank this as his best overall game. As the Hardwood Houdini-proclaimed king of the first quarter, Brown played more like the King of the game, scoring 26 points on an extremely impressive 65 percent from the field.

All but two of his makes came from outside the painted region as he also added seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals for the night. His aggressiveness in the paint, slicing through Maimi’s zone, helped get the Boston Celtics early points down low.

Brown’s ball-handling and playmaking throughout these playoffs is something Cs fans should take stock in as the 23-year-old swingman who is still blooming into one of the best two-way players in the entire league.

Marcus Smart: A

Say it with me loud and proud: Marcus Smart is now a two-time All-Defensive First Team member.

In typical Marcus Smart fashion, his impact came from both ends of the floor. As the Boston Celtics are likely responsible for the highest number of winning plays, his aggressiveness on defense guarding Goran Dragic, ability to muck up the pick and roll, and propensity for diving on loose balls gave the Cs a much-needed boost.

While he picked up four fouls towards the later stages of the third quarter, his aggressiveness and focus never wavered.

His clutchness on defense was also felt on the other side of the floor as 10 of Smart’s 20 points came from the free-throw line helping seal the game. Simply put, Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of this team.

Gordon Hayward: B+

Gordon Hayward wasn’t as rusty as perhaps he could have been in his first game back in almost five weeks.

His first play of the game was a great pass out of the pick and roll, where he found a cutting Daniel Theis. Hayward did a nice job of keeping a steady handle and snaking within the pick and roll with his play’s fluid, measured style.

While he only finished with six points on 2-7 shooting, the Butler Bulldog was active in other departments throughout his 30 minutes of play off the bench. Hayward grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists while also being extremely active off the ball, snatching three steals and a singular rejection.

Hayward’s on-ball defense was extraordinary, especially against Jimmy Butler. For his first game, let’s give Hayward a bit of leeway on his offensive production.

The shooting will come!

Daniel Theis: B

During his 24 minutes of play, Daniel Theis had a very mixed bag type of game.

While he scored eight points on 3-6 shooting and grabbed seven boards, the Dragic/ Bam Adebayo pick and roll game gave the “German Hammer” some positional struggles, as he found himself the victim of giving up several lobs.

That said, let’s give the big man credit for some solid isolation defense down the stretch, as he guarded both Herro and Dragic on back-to-back possessions without fouling and giving up a bucket.

Despite these defensive performances, Theis finished the game with five fouls as he picked up his third during his first 12 minutes.

The Boston Celtics are in a great position if Theis can have a similar production-wise outing in game four but without the fouling.

Grant Williams: B+

Grant Williams immediately hit what is becoming a classic, Grant Williams corner three.

He had five points in what felt like less than three seconds as he also provided a few physical strong box-outs and some terrific contests against Adebayo. While the +/- may not do him justice, Brad Stevens trusts the rookie to play big minutes down the stretch as he gives them more footspeed than Theis.

With his on-ball defense, Grant Williams may be the Celtics’ most active foul magnet as he picked up four fouls in only nine minutes of play.

Brad Wanamaker: B

Despite his impressive performance throughout these playoffs, Brad Wanamaker will likely have his minutes cut because of the Hayward return.

In only nine minutes of action, Wanamaker did a good job of both getting to the rim and making plays for others off the drive and kick. Unfortunately, his solid playmaking was coupled with two turnovers and three personal fouls, but look for Wanamaker to have a bounce-back game as he strives to earn more minutes from Brad Stevens and the Celtics coaching staff.

Enes Kanter: B

Enes Kanter only played a total of five minutes but provided instant strength down low.

He bodied Kelly Olynyk on a series of plays flexing his strength on the block. In a classic display of his skillset, Kanter grabbed two offensive rebounds and finished the game with four points.

Despite his limited time, Kanter is always an interesting puzzle piece for the Boston Celtics to sort out. Let’s see if he gets more or less time during game four.

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