The Miami Heat have taken a commanding 3-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Their mental toughness is the biggest reason why.
Despite losing their first play-in game and entering the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat find themselves in the driver’s seat against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, taking a commanding lead over the team that defeated them in seven games last postseason.
Miami made a statement in Game 3, completely dominating the Celtics,128-102. Many have doubted the Heat all postseason, but it is hard to bet against them reaching the NBA Finals now, considering they are just one win away and that no team has ever lost a series after going up 3-0.
What is powering Miami’s incredible run? It isn’t their talent, necessarily. The Celtics added more talent to their roster compared to last season. The Heat arguably got worse considering all the injuries they have had to deal with, like Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo.
The reason for the Heat’s run this postseason is their extreme mental toughness. They have proven they are mentally tougher than each team they have faced in the playoffs. Here are a few ways they have done that.
Beating Teams at their Own Game
The Heat did not have the best regular season; they finished last in team points per game and did not look like the team that had reached the conference finals last postseason. However, the Heat have shown what playoff experience can do to a team.
In each series, the Heat have beaten their opponents at their own game. The Milwaukee Bucks expected to dominate the Heat with their incredible depth and MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, Miami’s bench outplayed Milwaukee in this series; they shot the ball at a very high clip. Jimmy Butler ended up being the MVP of the series, capped off by a 56 point masterpiece in Game 4 to help give his team a 3-1 lead over the team with the best record in the regular season.
Against the Knicks, the Heat needed to work a little harder physically. In a dogfight of a series, the Heat found a way to out rebound the Knicks in multiple games, something the Knicks expected to do to the Heat.
Finally, the Heat have outplayed the Celtics through three games. The Celtics were expected to be the better 3-point shooting team, but so far the opposite has been true. In Game 3, Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson shot the lights out of the arena. Excellent shooting and defense from the Heat made the Celtics look like they had quit in the middle of the game.
The easiest way to describe Miami’s mental toughness is by relating it to their culture. The Heat pride themselves on effort and defense. They are constantly taking charges, being the first to hit the floor for every loose ball, and doing the little things that help win basketball games.
This starts with the leadership of the team. You can see how much respect the team has for Udonis Haslem when he talks to players before games or during timeouts. You can witness Miami’s mental toughness when you see coach Erik Spoelstra encourage his players without ever discouraging them. You can witness Miami’s toughness when you hear Butler talk about how he is not satisfied with anything until the Heat win the series.
Heat Culture is contagious. From top to bottom, every player on the team feels they play an important role in the success of the team. They bring their best effort every night. That is what separates the Heat from every other team in the NBA.
It is showing up against the Celtics. When you see the mental toughness of this Heat team compared to their opponent, it’s easy to see why they are just one win away from reaching their second NBA Finals in four seasons.