There are times during a season in which good teams go through rough patches. Typically, during the season, time is generally on their side. Get back to basics, refocus, and before you know it, the good teams are back on track. In the playoffs, time is not a luxury. Hit a rough patch where shots don’t fall, you are preparing for an early vacation.
After jumping out to big leads in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics still found themselves down 2-0 to the Miami Heat. At this point, the Celtics had a choice, show some character and fight for the remainder of their season, or roll over and allow the Heat to sweep their way into the NBA Finals.
Following Game 2, reporters were quick to share that there was shouting and chaos in the Celtic locker room after the loss. That’s it! The Celtics are done for! The players have turned on each other! After their Game 3 performance, it looks as if this was an attempt by players that care to save their season. Head coach Brad Stevens met with the team leaders to work out how they were going to fight for each other.
Game 3 saw the Heat using the zone that worked so well in Game 2. This time, however, the Celtics were ready. Using quick ball movements, off-the-ball movement, and dribble penetration at gaps in the zone, the Celtics were able to get themselves easy shots throughout the game. It does help that the Heat seemed a step slow on rotations and help side defense all night, but the Celtics displayed a textbook case on how to attack a zone defense.
Defensively, the Celtics hounded the Heat all night. Miami ended Game 3 shooting 39% from the field and just 27% from behind the arc. With just about 4 minutes remaining in the game, the Heat only had 2 three pointers in the second half. Nearly every shot that the Heat made last night were contested. Nothing came easy for the Heat. Boston’s high energy defense also turned into easy transition baskets.
While the Celtics only hit 9 threes for the entire game, when you score 60 points in the paint and 26 points from the foul line, there isn’t a need to jack up threes like most teams in the NBA.
Game 3 saw the Celtics bring exactly what they needed to turn things around in the series. High energy on defense, movement on and off the ball on offense, and an executed game plan for 48 minutes. The Celtics were not perfect for the entire 48 minutes, but when you bring a high intensity and execute on both ends of the court, you are able to outlast those rough patches. Something the Celtics were not able to do in Games 1 and 2.
While one game does create a trend, the return of Gordon Hayward and four starters with 20 or more points, the Celtics look like they are back to where they need to be. Now, it is the Heat’s turn to make those adjustments and keep the Celtics from wrestling the series away for their grasp.