White-hot Heat thrash lifeless Celtics, take 3-0 lead in ECF

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On Sunday night, two NBA teams entered what we call Miami’s basketball arena these days.

But only one showed up.

The Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 128-102, giving them a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 4 is Tuesday night in Miami. No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs.

It was a team effort by the Heat, and they were able to dominate the Celtics despite a rare inefficient night from Jimmy Butler (16 points on 5-for-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and six assists). Gabe Vincent led the way with 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting, while drilling six of his nine shots from deep.

The Celtics, meanwhile, got nothing from their stars. Jayson Tatum finished with 14 points on 6-for-18 shooting, while Jaylen Brown went 6-for-17 and finished with 12 points. Both players had more turnovers (three) than assists (two).

Statistics to know: 54.3%, that’s how much the Heat shot from deep. They drilled 19 triples. The Celtics, meanwhile, were just 11 of 42, which comes out to 26.2%. Brown was 0-for-7 from deep. Tatum went 1-7.

During the regular season, only the Golden State Warriors averaged more 3-pointers per game than the Celtics (16) and shot a better percentage (42.6). The 3-pointer has been a key piece of the Celtics’ offense all season, and yet, when the Celtics needed it most, it was the Heat who made it rain from deep.

Game Play: To be honest, there were plenty of Bam Adebayo dunks to choose from. He had some monster finishes, and kudos for realizing he’s big and strong and should be trying to sink balls, not pull up smooth jumpers from eight feet away, but that connection with Duncan Robinson was more symbolic of how the Heat. able to cut off the Celtics’ D.

It’s Duncan Robinson, not exactly the most electric rebounder, pulverizing an elite defender in Derrick White. He’s able to create space because, after hitting just 32.8 percent of his 3-point attempts during the regular season and falling out of the Heat’s rotation, Robinson has rediscovered his stroke in the playoffs.

Entering Game 3, he had drilled 42% of his deep looks, on 5.5 attempts per game, and was 5-for-7 on Sunday night. He finished the game with 22 points and, more impressively, four assists. Robinson’s renaissance has played a big role in the Heat’s miraculous playoff run.

Date of the night: Not a quote, but to paraphrase the saying, some pictures are worth a thousand words:

Next for the heat: At this point, it looks like all Miami needs to secure a sweep and a trip to the Finals is to simply show up. We can assume they won’t be hitting 54.3% of their 3s again, but they’ve also shown they can win playoff games in a lot of different ways.

Next for the Celtics: Maybe they can actually try? Knocking down some jumpers would certainly boost their energy level, but they also showed no fight in Game 3. So, trailing the Heat 3-0 and facing ridiculously long odds, they’re going to come out with juice or do you already dream of Cancun?

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Tanking to the top: the Philadelphia 76ers and the boldest process in the history of professional sports.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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