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Apr 26, 2024 12:39 pm

Celtics hoping to return to early form in Game 3 vs. Heat

boston celtics

All eyes will be on the 3-point line on Saturday when the Miami Heat host the top-seeded Boston Celtics in Game 3 of their first-round NBA playoff series.

In Game 1 on Sunday, host Boston prevailed 114-94. The Celtics made 22 3-pointers, shooting 44.9 percent from deep.

Miami made just 12 3-pointers, shooting 32.4 percent.

In Game 2 on Wednesday, also in Boston, Miami prevailed, 111-101, tying the best-of-seven series, 1-1. The Heat made 23 3-pointers, setting a franchise postseason record. The Heat shot 53.5 percent from deep. Boston made just 12 3-pointers, shooting 37.5 percent.

Miami’s Tyler Herro scored just 11 points in the series opener, shooting 4 of 13 overall. On Wednesday, he scored a team-high 24 points, making 7 of 13 shots, including 6 of 11 from deep.

The Heat also got 21 points each from Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called Martin, “the X-factor of X-factors.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler, who is out for several weeks due to a knee injury he suffered in the play-in round, is the Heat’s spiritual leader. But he has passed the metaphorical baton to Herro.

“(Butler) texted me to take the team and lead the guys,” Herro said.

Herro did just that on Wednesday, serving up a game-high 14 assists.

Losing Butler has been a big blow for the eighth-seeded Heat. He helps the team across the board, averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.3 steals.

He also averages a team-high 7.7 free throws, making 85.9 percent, and it is that skill of getting to the line and converting that is especially valuable late in games.

The Heat are also missing Terry Rozier, who is averaging 19.8 points this season in his two stops, including Charlotte.

Due to those injuries — and the fact that the Celtics had the best regular-season record in the NBA this season — Miami was not given much of a shot in this series.

But now the Heat return home with confidence. They also know that they knocked off the Celtics, 4-3, in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

Then again, the Heat struggled at home this season (23-18). In fact, the Celtics had a better road record (27-14) than Miami’s performance at home.

Overall, Boston finished 18 games ahead of the Heat in the standings this year, which should give the Celtics confidence.

Certainly, though, it will help Boston if Kristaps Porzingis plays better than he did in Game 2, when he was held to eight points on 1-for-9 shooting, including 0 of 4 from deep.

For the season, he averaged 20.1 points, and he had an effective field-goal percentage — which accounts for the value of 2-pointers and 3-pointers — of 58.9.

In Game 1, Porzingis had 18 points in his typically efficient fashion: 7-for-13 from the floor and 4-for-8 from deep.

“We have to do a better job of getting (Porzingis) the ball in the right spots,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said. “We’re going to do that on Saturday.”

Porzingis’ importance as Boston’s third option behind Tatum and Jaylen Brown is clear.

Tatum is averaging 26.9 points for the season and 25.5 points in the playoffs. Brown is averaging 23.0 points for the season and 25.0 points for the playoffs.

Porzingis can punish smaller defenders in the post, and he can pump in 3-pointers in the pick-and-pop game.

But the Heat got rough with Porzingis in Game 2.

“They upped the physicality,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of Miami. “They did a good job pushing his catches higher.”

Added Tatum: “There’s a lot of history between these two franchises. We knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

–Field Level Media

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