NBA playoffs

Celtics ‘not dead’ yet against white-hot Heat as series moves to Miami

Celtics ‘not dead’ yet against white-hot Heat as series moves to Miami

IN A CORNER. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) battles with Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) and guard Max Strus (31) for a loose ball during the second half of game two of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The eighth-seeded Miami Heat continue to be the little team that could as the stunned Boston Celtics aim to reverse their fortunes on enemy territory in Games 3 and 4

The Heat will look to continue their winning ways at home and push the Boston Celtics to the brink of elimination on Sunday (Monday, May 22, Manila time) when their Eastern Conference finals series shifts to Miami.

The eighth-seeded Heat have won all five of their home games in the playoffs thus far. They also have backed the second-seeded Celtics into a corner by winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Boston.

Jimmy Butler collected 27 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in Miami’s 111-105 victory over Boston on Friday (Saturday, May 20, Manila time), while Bam Adebayo contributed 22, 17 and nine, respectively.

“Jimmy and Bam just really anchored us offensively,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s great when your two best players can lead you, in a place where the ball can go and everybody else is just playing off of those guys.

“Both of them at some point basically guarded everybody on the floor, basically at some point with the switches. They are going to burn a lot of calories on that end, but they have to shoulder massive responsibilities for us on the other end.”

But they weren’t alone as Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson added strong performances off the bench on Friday. Martin poured in 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the floor, while Robinson added 15 with a 6-for-9 effort.

“I have so much faith in this group of guys,” Butler said.

Jayson Tatum led Boston in points (34), rebounds (13) and assists (8) on Friday, however he failed to convert a field goal in the fourth quarter for the second straight game.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to make just 4 of 17 attempts from 3-point range.

“It’s tough. It’s a challenge. But there’s no point being up here sad and (expletive),” Tatum said. “They came in and won two games. They played well; you give them credit. But we’re not dead or anything.”

“We’ve got a great opportunity. I still have the utmost confidence. Everybody has the utmost confidence. We’ve just got to get ready for Game 3.”

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla was succinct when asked about his message to his team after it let a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter go by the boards on Friday.

“We got to win one at a time,” he said.

And Boston also will need to be careful not to ignite a spark under Butler. Grant Williams unintentionally did that by getting in Butler’s face, with the latter later admitting that he was fueled by the heated exchange.

“No matter if I lit him up or not, he’s going to do that,” Williams said. “For me, it’s a matter of understanding that yeah, sure, you did poke a bear, quote unquote. And how are you going to respond?”

The Celtics will need to respond in Game 3. If they don’t, the Heat will be on the brink of advancing to the NBA Finals for the second time in four seasons.

Game 4 is slated for Tuesday night (Wednesday, May 24, Manila time) in Miami. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.