9/19 Game 3 Preview: Celtics at Heat
In the wake of a Game 2 defeat to fall behind 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals, raw emotion came to a head for the Boston Celtics. Reports of screaming and thrown objects in the locker room have the team at a crossroads as it gets set for Game 3 against the Miami Heat on Saturday night near Orlando.
The Celtics' loss Thursday saw them blow both a 17-point lead amassed in the second quarter and a five-point edge in the final five minutes of the game. It was the second straight such defeat for Boston after Miami came back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to win in overtime in Game 1, so tensions were reportedly high among players, namely Marcus Smart and the other team leaders.
"It's really just a lot of emotions flying around," Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown said. "Obviously we feel like we could have won (Game 2); we should have won, but we didn't. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That's it."
Coach Brad Stevens met with Brown, Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker later Thursday night to work through the frustration, according to a report from ESPN. Key will be returning focus to the task at hand, as recovering from two games down against a Heat team that has won 10 of 11 playoff games thus far is as tall a task as it gets.
"Just be prepared to win that next one," Tatum said. "Not looking at it like we've got to win four out of five. ... Just take it one game at a time."
Boston could receive a sizable boost for Game 3 as starting forward Gordon Hayward was upgraded to questionable for the contest. Hayward has been sidelined since Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs with an ankle injury. His return, along with Walker showing he's ready to put a slump behind him with 23 points Thursday, could breathe new life into a Celtics team facing its make-or-break moment.
The Heat, on the other hand, know their job is to continue playing the way they have. Even down 17 in the first half of Game 2, Miami never felt out of it, and it came through during a third quarter in which it outscored Boston 37-17 to take a seven-point lead into the fourth.
"Man, we got grit," said big man Bam Adebayo, who scored 15 of his 21 points on the night during the quarter. "That's about all I can tell you. We got grit, man. I'm happy to be on this team with these guys, because everybody in here has a different story. We all come from nothing, and that's what's beautiful about this team, man. You put guys that come from nothing together, and they have a vision, and we're just trying to foresee that vision."
While Adebayo and Goran Dragic (25 points) led the way in the victory, Jimmy Butler took a back seat with 14 points. The All-Star forward was more than happy to let his teammates carry the load, however.
"We believe in one another, and we know what we're capable of," Butler said. "... We get down at times, but we never hang our heads because we know if we play the right way, we give ourselves a chance to win."