Jaylen Brown was a defense freak and played perhaps his best all-round game of the playoffs. He finished with 26 points on an 11-for-17 shot, plus seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block in 42 minutes. Jayson Tatum had 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Kemba Walker added 21 points on an 8 for 16 shot.
Miami only shot 33 for 85, but managed to stay until the last minute. Center Bam Adebayo had 27 points on a 10 for 14 shot, plus 16 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Off the bench, Tyler Herro scored 22 points and distributed four assists, but did almost all of his damage in the first half.
Boston led by 13 points at halftime and up to 19 points in the third. The Heat went on an 11-1 run late in the third quarter, briefly threatening to pull off the kind of comeback that sank the Celtics in each of the first two games. Boston responded with a 7-0 run and the margin was back to 19 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Miami managed to make things interesting at the end of the fourth, reducing the deficit to five points, but it’s tough to get a victory from behind when you shoot 4 for 26 on 3 points in the second half.
Here are three things to remember:
1. If they keep doing THIS…
Every team in the NBA is in desperate need of big wings that can defend multiple spots. Regardless of the position, each team tries to stack their roster with players who can dribble, pass and shoot. In the broadest terms possible, Boston is fortunate to have two former # 3 picks that fit those descriptions.
But the Celtics have championship potential as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can play games like this when they need it most. If a single streak served as the microcosm of the night, it’s when Brown started a quick break with a block on Goran Dragic and Tatum finished it off with a powerful dunk.
The best part about this piece? Brown’s ridiculously quick recovery from Dragic’s foul ball. He was all over Game 3, forcing turnovers and putting pressure on the Miami defense without being reckless with the ball.
Tatum and Brown understood that they had to make Miami react. What’s most encouraging, though, is that they haven’t forced a ton of bad shots. Neither is natural when it comes to creating for others at this point in their respective careers, but they move on. And when they do get saves and score in transition, Boston is extremely hard to beat.
“We really wanted to attack,” Stevens said. “If we put it on the floor, we want to reach the edge and make a game for ourselves or for others. And then if we don’t put pressure on the ball defensively, if we wait to be attacked, we stink. . So we might as well put the pressure on and see if we can be good. ”
Stevens said he was not embarrassed that the Celtics lost Thursday’s game. For him, it was more about how they lost and who the Celtics were going to show themselves to next. If this is what they are – and this is how Tatum and Brown are going to behave – then Miami is going to have to play at a much higher level than in Game 3.
2. There is, there is
With Gordon Hayward back in the lineup for the first time since spraining his right ankle in Game 1 of Round 1, Boston looked alike again. Hayward stepped off the bench and his presence made every bench roster used significantly better than it would have been otherwise.
After a month off, Hayward didn’t steal the show offensively. He was just adjusting to what the Celtics were doing, performing pick-and-rolls, moving without the ball, and serving as a connector. Boston went to their centerless roster – Walker, Hayward, Brown, Tatum and Marcus Smart – on several occasions, and the amount of play on the field was evident.
“Getting it back, that’s it,” Tatum said, describing the team as more dynamic, more versatile and “so much better” with Hayward on the pitch.
Stevens didn’t expect Hayward to play 31 minutes, but big trouble made it necessary and the extended break ahead made him tenable. He scored just six points on the 2 for 7 shooting but had four assists, five rebounds, three steals and one block.
“He’s a stabilizing force for our team,” Sevens said. “He can just make the right play and make a play for someone else at the right time. ”
An example: with about three minutes left in the game, Boston was 10 points ahead and it looked like the Heat were about to stop. The Celtics had used most of the shot clock trying to create an advantage, but didn’t until Hayward prepared Walker for a drive-and-kick 3 corner.
3. Super Herro?
It’s pretty incredible the Heat only lost 63-50 at halftime, considering how little time was left on the offensive. Boston started the game with Smart Guarding Dragic, an adjustment clearly aimed at disrupting the Dragic-Adebayo pick-and-roll.
Even though Adebayo was fantastic, it was a success – Dragic couldn’t find any kind of rhythm. Jimmy Butler wasn’t particularly assertive either and, without Herro’s heroism, the first half would have been a complete disaster for Miami.
Herro scored 18 points in the first half on a 6 for 10 shot, including 4 for 6 from deep. In a stretch that lasted two minutes and 17 seconds, he made four consecutive jumps, three of them behind the arc.
Boston should be happy with the way they limited Herro in the second half, and the Heat need to understand what’s going on with his slow starts. Miami may be the lead in the series, but its offensive issues are increasingly troubling. The Celtics played a smarter, more aggressive game on Saturday, and the Heat have a few days to figure out how to react the same.