The Boston Celtics responded to Game 3’s disappointing defeat in a big way on Monday night, blowing out the Miami Heat by a final score of 102-82. In all reality, the game wasn’t even that close, with the C’s leading by as many as 32 until garbage time.
The game now transitions this series to a best of three with Miami holding two potential home games. However, after already winning Game 2 down in South Beach, it’s quite clear that Boston should still win the series.
The story of the game is undoubtedly the Celtics’ defense, which held Miami to 52 points through three-quarters of play. They jumped out to an 18-1 lead, with the Heat not making a field goal until the 3:22 mark in the first quarter.
Let’s go into that idea more with our first takeaway:
Boston Celtics takeaway No. 1) A defensive showcase
The Miami Heat starting group ended up scoring a total of 18 points. 18…
Those points are the lowest from a starting five in a playoff game since starters were first recorded in 1970. Jimmy Butler scored six points while only hitting three of his 14 shots, while the entire unit finished 7-of-32.
Sure, Miami was missing Tyler Herro who can provide a spark off the bench, but the incorporation of Victor Oladipo, who, at one point, had 18 of the team’s 28 points well into the second quarter, played better than Herro had all postseason.
The presence of Robert Williams was much needed for this Celtics defense, as he was able to roam off P.J. Tucker from the corner while also contesting every shot at the rim. He and Al Horford combined for six total blocks, forcing Miami into an abysmal 16-of-54 from inside the arc.
They only hit six of their 31 attempts in floater range (19.4%), while the league average sits around 42%.
The length of Boston clearly bothered the Heat, and, without an aggressive Bam Adebayo, the Celtics’ starting lineup proved to be far more athletic at every position. The resurgence of Adebayo carried Miami through the first half of Game 1, and he ended up only taking five shots the next game.
Additionally, the Celtics controlled the boards, with both Horford and Williams making more of an effort on the defensive glass after it hindered them in Game 3. They outrebounded Miami 60 to 39, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds to the Heat’s 10.
Ultimately, on most nights, the Heat would have made more shots in the first three quarters. There’s clearly an element of shooting variance in this series, but Boston forced their opponents into extremely difficult, late-clock looks due to their well-connected switching scheme.