Heat vs. Celtics score: Boston gets blown out as Miami takes 3-0 lead in Eastern Conference finals
Gabe Vincent's 29 points led the way as Miami is one win from the NBA Finals
The Miami Heat are one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. After opening up a 2-0 series lead against the Boston Celtics on the road, the Heat completely demolished the Celtics Sunday night in Game 3, pulling away with a 128-102 win. From the opening tip, the Heat just looked like the more prepared team in every aspect of the game. By the end of the third quarter, Miami had opened up a 30-point lead, and Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla waved the white flag, sending in reserves to start the fourth quarter effectively ending the game with 12 minutes left.
It was a team effort for the Heat, with Gabe Vincent leading the way with 29 points, followed by 22 points from Duncan Robinson and 18 points from Caleb Martin. For the Celtics, there weren't many bright spots, as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for just 26 points. After a complete steamrolling of Boston in Game 3, the Heat can now go for a sweep Tuesday night against the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference and take another trip to the NBA Finals.
An embarrassing, inexcusable effort from Boston
The Celtics were a 4.5-point favorite entering Sunday night's Game 3, and my goodness was that a major oversight. From the opening tip the Celtics looked half interested in a must-win game, complete with poor defense, too many turnovers and a disappearing act from the two star players on the team. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to go just 12 of 35 from the field, including an 0-7 3-point night from Brown. And it didn't get much better going down the rest of the roster. The two Jays were the only Celtics players to score in double figures -- aside from Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard and Luke Kornet in garbage time -- which was just the tip of the iceberg in a disappointing night for Boston.
As a team, the Celtics shot just 36.6% from the field and 20.6% from 3-point range, and it didn't help that the team committed 14 turnovers, which the Heat converted into 18 points. Even when Boston did get a couple stops on the defensive end, they couldn't convert on the other end, either because players were missing quality looks, or guys were forcing up poor shots. It was a truly shocking performance from the Celtics, and they looked shells-hocked once the Heat opened up a 20-point lead in the first half. I mean, when the Heat run an after timeout play for Cody Zeller, and it works, you know you've sunken to a deep place that there is no coming back from.
Despite the many efforts from Al Horford to try and keep his teammates locked in during timeouts, the Celtics just faltered in every aspect of this game. As a result, Boston now faces elimination -- and a sweep -- in Game 4, something I don't think anyone expected to happen at the start of this series.
The undrafted guys continue to shine
If you've watched any bit of this Heat team during the playoffs -- or during any point in the last several years -- one of the common narratives you'll hear about the team is their ability to take undrafted guys and turn them into quality role players in this league. This season, they just so happen to have several of those type of guys on the team who came up huge in Game 3. Led by Vincent's 29 points, the top three scorers on Miami's team were all undrafted guys with Robinson (22 points ) and Martin (18 points) carrying a bulk of the offensive load for the Heat.
Credit Miami's ball movement, which left the Celtics running in circles trying to closeout on shooters all night long. It also helps when you have an offensive weapon like Jimmy Butler who draws so much defensive attention that you're bound to have one guy open on the perimeter. The Heat weren't even doing anything too complicated on offense for most of the game. It was just simple dribble penetration from Butler, watch the Boston defense collapse on him and kick it out to the open guy on the perimeter. Even when the Celtics did manage to run guys off the 3-point line, it resulted in plays like this from Robinson:
Yep, that's Duncan Robinson, who averaged just 16 minutes during the regular season, driving right past Grant Williams -- with ease by the way -- for a tough finish at the rim. And Robinson wasn't done for the night. He then ran a pick-and-roll play with Bam Adebayo, which was incredibly successful during Miami's 2020 Finals run, to pull off this exciting finish from Miami's big man:
If the role players continue to play like this, Miami is going to be incredibly difficult to beat if they close out this series and advance to the NBA Finals.
Heat on the brink of history
With the victory Sunday night, the Heat are one win away from becoming just the second eighth seed to advance to the NBA Finals. The last team to do that was the 1999 New York Knicks during a lockout season. But as we've seen over the course of this postseason, this Miami team is no ordinary eight seed. From the top down the Heat have looked like the better team in every series they've played so far, even against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. What's even more impressive about all this is the Heat are doing all of this damage without Tyler Herro, who got injured in the first round. The Heat were also narrowly close to missing the postseason altogether after losing their first play-in game to the Atlanta Hawks, and then almost losing to the Chicago Bulls in their second play-in game.
But none of that has mattered as the Heat have proven to catch fire at the perfect time. This is a team that finished 25th in offensive rating, and yet here they are ranking third in the same category during the playoffs. Miami's postseason run has been an excellent example of why regular season success doesn't dictate playoff results. They've completely shirked every prediction that went against them and are now on the brink of going to their second NBA Finals in four years.
Boston is going to need an all-time comeback in this fourth quarter
The Celtics are staring at a 30-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter after getting outscored 32-17 in the third quarter. Lot of things can happen in the fourth quarter, but I just don't see this team climbing out of this hole. With the way Tatum and Brown are shooting, and the lack of support role players are giving, this thing looks all but over right now. Heat should take a commanding, and shocking, 3-0 lead heading into Game 4 on Tuesday.
Embarrassing effort from Boston
Celtics are now down by 30 points... THIRTY POINTS! In the Eastern Conference finals. That's just unacceptable. Nevermind the seeding aspect, losing on this scale, this late into the playoffs is just inexcuseable.
No-show night for Tatum
Through two and a half quarters Jayson Tatum has just 12 points on 5 of 13 from the field. His production has been all over the place throughout the playoffs, but this isn't a great time for him to go ghost on his team.
Not-so-encouraging stat for the Celtics
Boston is currently down 20 points, and while there's a lot of time left to come back from that, the Celtics are 0-10 this season when trailing by 20+ points. Not a great stat hanging over this team as they try to claw back into this game and series.
Heat on a 13-2 run and the flood gates continue to open
There's still plenty of time left, but the Celtics look cooked right now. Nothing is going right, and it doesn't help that the Heat are shooting 62.2% from the field and 50% from deep.