After incredibly frustrating back to back loses to the Heat, the Celtics needed to find their stride in game 3. They could not afford to go down 0-3 in the series. Boston responded with a wire to wire 117 to 106 win.
After the Celtics let another lead slip through their fingers in game 2, some steam was let out. According to reports, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown got into an altercation postgame. Both players took their frustrations and carried them over to Saturday night.
Brown leads all Boston scorers with 26 points while shooting an efficient 11 of 17. Brown was aggressive driving to the paint all night, as he only shot 2 threes.
Speaking of aggressive, Smart was all over the court. He ended up with 20 points shooting 5 of 10 of the field. Smart was perfect from the stripe, drilling 10 of 10 free throws. That included some huge ones down the stretch while Miami was making Boston sweat to the end.
Return of Hayward
Gordon Hayward coming back for Boston might not look huge in the box score. He finished with 6-4-5 with 3 steals. Although, in 30 minutes, Hayward stabilized the Celtics second unit.
A problem in this series has been bench production for Boston. With Hayward coming off the bench, he knows how to run the offense. He is a smart facilitator, a great passer, and knows when to look for his shot. While he looks to find his groove shooting, Hayward will only continue to help Boston.
The Celtics closed.. sort of
A massive issue for Boston the entire playoffs has been holding on to leads. They have struggled to put games away when they have had complete control. In this series, Boston has squandered double digit leads in both losses.
Miami cut the score to 109 to 104 with 55 seconds left. Boston never should have let in getting there, since the Celtics were up 109 to 96 with 2:24 left. Due to the Heat missing a couple of shots and Boston draining their free throws, they held on.
The Celtics are going to have to get better down the stretch of these games. They were fortunate to have a double-digit advantage with a couple of minutes left.
Boston now has a chance to even up this series Monday. If they continue to take the right shots and close out on the Heat’s air space, the Celtics should be able to make this a best of 3 series.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones