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Sunday night in the 2023 NBA Playoffs saw the Miami Heat embarrass the Boston Celtics to take a 3-0 lead, putting them one win away from the NBA Finals just like the Denver Nuggets. You know things were bad when no one on Boston scored 15 points in a must-win game.
Heat Take Over Early
Boston’s idea was to start Derrick White instead of Robert Williams to give the team more 3-point shooting. In Games 1-2, the Celtics failed to make more than 10 3s for the first time all season. While White would hit a trio of 3s in this game, the experiment failed miserably as Boston was just 2-of-7 from 3 in the first quarter and trailed 30-22.
The Heat proved the first two games in Boston were no fluke as they played even better at home, opening up a 20-point lead in the second quarter before leading by 15 points at halftime.
The role players of the Heat continued their strong play in this series with Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, and Gabe Vincent all producing for the No. 8 seed. Kevin Love pulled up early with an injury and left the game after scoring the first 5 points in the first 5 minutes. But the Heat had his back with a bevy of players stepping up.
Boston Waves the White Flag Early
If fans were upset at Boston coach Joe Mazzulla before Game 4, they will be even more outraged after this loss. Boston was embarrassed in the third quarter as the deficit grew to 30 points.
In the third quarter, the Celtics shot 7-of-24 from the field and just 1-of-13 from 3. The Heat shot 57.9% and got balanced scoring from starters and bench players.
While a 30-point deficit is practically impossible to make up in one quarter in the playoffs, it was still a bad look for Boston to wave the white flag early. Mazzulla played backups Grant Williams, Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet, and Payton Pritchard for all 12:00 of the fourth quarter. The only starter to get any action was Marcus Smart, who played 4:17 and missed all 3 of his shots.
It ended up being the only quarter Boston won, 39-35, but it was too late. No one on the Celtics scored 15 points, and Jayson Tatum was the high-point man at 14. Jaylen Brown was awful again with 12 points on 6-of-17 shooting. He was 0-for-7 from 3, picking a terrible time to have the worst shooting series of his playoff career. But even Tatum was just 1-for-7 from 3.
The Celtics finished 11-of-42 from 3, so kudos to breaking 40 attempts this time, but they only had one more make this time and were still totally outclassed by Miami’s shooters, who finished a red-hot 19-of-35 (54.3%) from 3.
Gabe Vincent really poured it on with a game-high 29 points, going 6-of-9 from 3. Duncan Robinson also had 22 points off the bench. Caleb Martin was excellent again with 18 points. This is why Jimmy Butler (16) and Bam Adebayo (13) only had to combine for 29 points in the 128-102 win. They had great help.
Boston won the offensive rebound battle 21-1 and still lost by 26 points – this has only been done four other times since 1983-84, including regular season games. Worse, Boston finished plus-22 in rebounds, only the second time in NBA history a team lost by more than 25 points with a rebound margin that big. The season looks finished at this point for Boston, the team ESPN said had a 97% chance to win this series before it started.
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