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Celtics’ defense answers call in blowout of Heat in Game 3



Celtics' defense answers call in blowout of Heat in Game 3

MIAMI — After maybe probably the most shocking results of the postseason to date — the shorthanded, No. 8-seeded Warmth beating the No. 1-seeded Celtics in Sport 2 to tie their first-round collection — it was pure to marvel how issues would play out within the pivotal Sport 3.

Would Boston, after the head-scratching loss, rebound and once more resemble the membership that received the East by 14 video games within the common season? Or had coach Erik Spoelstra and his scrappy group discovered a system it may repeat to play spoiler within the collection for a second straight postseason?

The reply, emphatically, was the previous.

After surrendering 23 3-pointers of their Sport 2 loss, the Celtics had been way more energetic and bodily defensively Saturday night time and smothered the Warmth in a 104-84 Sport 3 win to take a 2-1 collection edge.

Sport 4 is Monday in Miami.

Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown mentioned coach Joe Mazzulla challenged them to play with extra defensive depth after watching Miami go off from deep in Sport 2.

“Everyone is aware of how proficient we’re. However can we be the harder, harder-playing staff?” mentioned Tatum, who completed with 22 factors, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. “If we are able to mix that with the expertise, it should be exhausting to beat us.

“Can we begin off each recreation, basically, punching first as an alternative of reacting? That is a check we’ve to be up for each single night time.”

The Celtics’ response to Mazzulla’s problem was instantaneous. Guard Jrue Vacation and his teammates locked in early towards the Warmth’s offense, surrendering simply three factors by the primary 6 minutes, 46 seconds of play. Boston gave up simply 12 factors on 5-for-21 capturing within the first quarter, which Mazzulla referred to as “a bodily, robust … rock battle.”

Boston was pleased to create these sorts of circumstances defensively by pushing up additional on that aspect of the ball. Brown, who completed with a game-high 23 factors, mentioned the Celtics got here in with a handful of guidelines after Miami’s record-setting exhibiting in Sport 2.

“No ‘dare’ photographs. Respect these guys’ functionality. They’re NBA gamers, they usually can get sizzling on any given night time,” Brown mentioned. “We simply wished to make it uncomfortable for them.”

The consequence: Miami completed 9-of-28 from 3-point vary, a night-and-day distinction from the 23-of-43 efficiency three days earlier. Warmth playmaker Tyler Herro — who had one of many most interesting video games of his profession in Sport 2, with 24 factors and 14 assists — appeared bothered all night time, capturing simply 5-of-16 for 15 factors and 4 turnovers. He shot 0-for-5 on contested seems to be, in line with ESPN Stats & Info information.

The Warmth’s 84 factors had been their fewest in a recreation all season (together with playoffs).

“They had been the extra bodily staff. They bodied us [and] bullied us,” Spoelstra mentioned, including that Boston’s physicality repeatedly took the Warmth out of their offensive actions and units.

Boston turned its amplified protection into offense repeatedly Saturday, scoring 24 factors off Miami’s turnovers. The Warmth, against this, scored simply 4 factors off the Celtics’ miscues.

If the Celtics proceed to place their foot on the pedal the best way they did in Sport 3, Miami — which knocked out Boston because the underdog in final yr’s convention finals — may discover it tough to mount a problem this time. Star wing Jimmy Butler stays out with an MCL sprain whereas guard Terry Rozier is sidelined with neck spasms. It leaves the Warmth, who already struggled to attain at occasions, with much less offensive creation towards one of many league’s greatest defending items.

“We’ve got sufficient to get the job performed,” Spoelstra mentioned. “We all know we’ve to play exhausting, and we additionally should play nicely.”

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