There’s an old saying by the Greek Storyteller Aesop that asks the question, “Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?”
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals this past Sunday, the Miami Heat dominated the Boston Celtics on both sides of the court. So many things happened, and there is no way to narrow it all down. To answer the question above, no, in this case, it’s never too much of a good thing, it’s an exciting reality.
The Heat came out blazing. They shot well, played good offense and defense, and had the hustle and tenacity it takes to win a basketball game against one of their rivals. Winning the game 128-102, the Heat made the series 3-0.
"“We’re getting closer but we still have to finish this off,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Sunday’s win. “You can tell… how much this means to everyone. We were able to get the game on our terms and sustain it. We’ll decompress on Tuesday and get our minds right to finish this thing off.”"
No team in the NBA has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. Tonight in Game 4, the Heat have a chance to eliminate the Celtics in Miami and join the Denver Nuggets who just shut out LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers last night to advance to the NBA Finals.
It’s safe to say that if the Heat keeps playing like this, they’ll most likely close it out, and also have a chance to compete for their fourth NBA championship, starting on June 1st.
Here are some things they can do tonight to win Game 4 and advance to The Finals.
1. 3-point Shooting
From beyond the arc, the Heat is shooting a playoff-record of 38.8%. This is amazing, considering during the regular season, they made the list of the worst 3-point shooting teams (4th place). In this round against the Celtics, they’re making 47.8% of their 3s.
This was largely thanks to many players off the bench, including Caleb Martin, Kyle Lowry, and Duncan Robinson, all of whom are shooting better in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. With Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo posting modest scoring numbers in Game 3, Robinson finished as the Heat’s second-leading scorer with 22 points, behind Vincent’s 29.
Despite all the dialogue surrounding their shooting deficit from beyond the arc, in this playoff run that has completely changed. Luckily, the Heat have improved their focus, getting into a catch-and-shoot rhythm and producing the types of looks they want. In Game 3, they completely outshot the Celtics, who are usually a good 3-point shooting team. The Heat, who once was in 1st place for 3-point shooting, their mojo has returned, and what they’ve developed is having a snowball effect.
A big reason for the Celtics’ shortcomings this series is the Heat’s defense — which has a plan for everything. Boston can’t seem to attack back against the Heat’s defenders. When any form of downhill leverage is established, Miami cuts off driving lanes before they can quickly rotate back out to their shooters.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum has especially had a hard time in this series. Miami’s zone defense hasn’t made it easy for him to get to the paint, and Caleb Martin has provided sticky defense on both Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Rookie coach Joe Mazzulla has struggled to draw up any answers. It has been a masterclass in defense, and something the Heat need to continue doing to win Game 4.
3. Take Care of the Ball
In last year’s seven-game series, the Celtics had 15 or fewer turnovers in each of their four wins over the Heat. However, the tables have turned, with Boston committing 16 turnovers in Game 1, 23 in Game 2, and 17 in Game 3. The Heat are winning the turnover battle by nine — 45-36 — through the first three games of this series.
Despite the absence of a tenacious defender in Victor Oladipo, the Heat has attacked ball handlers as a five-man unit on every possession, reading passing lanes, smacking at the ball on a live dribble, and recovering deflections. On offense, the chemistry has been apparent as the Heat has made smart passes, cuts, and playmaking decisions.
When Miami shifts from a Butler-centric offense, it has benefited them the most when everyone has an opportunity to touch the ball and score. With contributions from other players like Kevin Love, Lowry, Vincent, Martin, Max Strus, and Robinson, the Heat has to continue to protect and take care of the ball.
If the Heat win the turnover battle again on Tuesday, and take care of both sides of the court, the chances of beating the Celtics look that much better.