Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Celtics erase the Heat and still believe in coming back

With an unquestionable display of basketball, The Boston Celtics overwhelmed the Miami Heat this Thursday (110-97) and revalidated the victory harvested two days before in Miami for get closer to 2-3 in the NBA East Finals and feed their ambitions to achieve an unprecedented comeback after losing 0-3 in the series.

The Celtics are at their best when they’re up against the wall. That of the TD Garden was their fourth victory in these ‘playoffs’ in games of life and death and the pressure increases for the Heat, with Joe Mazzulla’s men who will arrive in Miami on Saturday for the sixth game with a tailwind despite continuing to down in the series.

It’s a fight against history for the Celtics, 17-time NBA champions. No franchise has managed to advance after losing a series of ‘playoffs’ 3-0 in 150 precedents. After his exhibition at the TD Garden, Boston is halfway there.

The Celtics got used to the ups and downs, who already had a very slow start to the regular season last year, before taking off and flying to the Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Even that season, however, Boston was far from invincible in the Garden and in two years its record at home in the playoffs was 10-11 before this clash.

The answer was clear and forceful. The TD Garden hosted a Celtics monologue, who took advantage from the beginning and did not leave it again, beyond seeing their income reduce in the last minutes, with no stars on the track. They always win in this postseason when they exceed 40% in three-point shots and this Thursday they sealed 16 of their 39 attempts (41%). Derrick White was the leading scorer with 24 points and a tremendous 6 of 8 on triples. Marcus Smart chipped in 23 points, with 4 3-pointers, Jayson Tatum chipped in 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists, and Jaylen Brown chipped in with 21.

In the Heat, who still can’t count on Tyler Herro with a broken hand and who couldn’t field Gabe Vincent because of a sprained ankle, Jimmy Butler didn’t get more than 14 points and Bam Adebayo scored 16. Erik’s team Spoelstra had a good contribution from his bench, with 18 points from Duncan Robinson, 15 from Haywood Highsmith and 14 from Caleb Martin, but he never had an advantage in the game.

The Celtics come out to bite

It was played in a packed TD Garden, prepared for big occasions, and the Celtics came out to bite from the first moment, aggressive on every play, forceful from the three-point line and seasoned in rebounding. Four Celtics players already had double figures in a 61-point first half, led by Jaylen Brown’s 15 and Derrick White’s 14; Tatum had 12 and Marcus Smart, 13. It was the latter, the best defender of last year, to connect the triple in the first period that ended a Celtics 12-0 run to start putting land in the middle (18-5). In that play, the work of Horford stood out, who captured one of his three offensive rebounds in the first half and provided an assist. Another triple, this time signed by White at the buzzer of the first quarter, sent clear signals to the Heat, who trailed by fifteen points after the first period and touched the deficit twenty in the second after suffering a new 12-3 (61-41). Boston shot over 40% in that first half and already had thirteen second-chance points after the first two quarters.

White, sniper

In both Game 1 and Game 2 of this series, the Celtics blew double-digit leads in the Garden. They did not make that mistake again this Thursday. Dominant from start to finish, they continued to hurt the Heat from 3-point range, fueled by White, a sharpshooter, and Marcus Smart. The advantage reached 23 points, with Tatum also dedicating himself to giving rhythm to his teammates (five assists), and the Heat, despite 10 points from Bam Adebayo, found no answers to contain the local momentum. White finished his game with 6 of 8 triples and was the top scorer for some Celtics who increased their lead to 24 points in the 96-72.

All this turned the last minutes into a formality and Mazzulla rested his stars with his eyes already set on the sixth game. Spoelstra did the same with his leaders. Of course, the drop in concentration of the Celtics was used by the Heat to get ten points, although the duel was already sentenced.

A series that seemed already decided three days ago is now openwith the Celtics halfway to a historic miracle.


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