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Celtics Lose Three Point Advantage in Potentially Costly Game 2 Defeat

BOSTON — Miami promised more threes and in 3.5 quarters on Wednesday delivered the Celtics as many makes as Boston poured on them through all of Sunday afternoon. Caleb Martin’s fifth three on sixth tries brought back memories of last year, slamming the door shut on Boston’s comeback attempt and reminding everyone that the Heat won’t go down easily in this series — even without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier.

“We’ve been doubted a lot through our playoff runs,” Bam Adebayo said. “People saying we couldn’t do a lot of stuff that we did. For me and our team, it’s like, why lose belief now? Backs against the wall, everybody against us. Use it as fuel. A lot of people seem to think we’re gonna buy into what they say of we can’t get it done and let it seep into our locker room. It’s different. Our guys believe that we can win. We get between those lines, we make it about basketball. We don’t make it about schemes. We don’t make it about this guy and that guy. We make it about mano-a-mano, get in that cage fight and let’s hoop.”

The Heat pulled within one three of setting a franchise record for makes from deep in a shocker, coming back with a different approach that Joe Mazzulla warned about at practice on Tuesday that still seemed to catch Boston off-guard. Miami won, 111-101, tying the first round series many predicted would become a sweep as it turns to Florida Saturday.

They forecasted shooting more freely and their effort to reduce the number Boston took after allowing 45% three-point shooting on 49 Celtics attempts. Erik Spoelstra said they wouldn’t shoot 50 and they wouldn’t hold Boston to 25, but they nearly did both. Miami launched 15 of its 19 first quarter shot attempts from deep and watched eight of them fall, matching a feat they only pulled off once earlier in the season. The Celtics started 2-for-8, winning the shot margin overall 23-19, enough to stay within one point between quarters.

Jayson Tatum scored 10 points in five minutes to open the frame, starting 4-for-5 from the field, including a drive through Heat traffic, a three from the right wing and an alley-oop. He finished with 28 points on 10-for-20 shooting, though only posting three assists after his triple-double on Sunday. Boston narrowly won the shot margin, offensive rebounding battle and took more free throws — 21-18. The Celtics missed six of them, diminishing that advantage.

“We’ve been built on taking what the defense gives us,” Mazzulla said. “Being able to win in different ways. Over the course of the season, winning the shot margin in the way that we did, from the free throw line, more offensive rebounds and less turnovers, that’s a recipe for long-term success. I think that’s the balance of finding where you can get better, but also not overreacting. Because if you do that, it opens up more to what (Miami is) capable of.”

Kevin Love laid a hard hit on Al Horford to begin the second, recalling some of the noted physicality from Game 1. The teams played evenly form the free throw line in the first, Boston built a 2-0 advantage on the offensive boards and as the Heat clearly hedged higher on defense to prevent threes, Derrick White and others ducked under the defense to create looks closer to the rim. Horford and Sam Hauser fed each other for threes early in the second to build a small lead, 40-35, after Horford and Brown dove for a long Tatum miss. Payton Pritchard didn’t attempt a shot in the loss after his breakout Game 1.

The Heat regained an advantage later in the half, Martin pouring in their 10th and 11th makes with four minutes remaining, leading 45-44, just short of their season-high for makes in a half. Martin received boos throughout the game following his foul on Tatum late in Game 1. The Heat repeatedly showed bodies against Kristaps Porzingis in the lane, piling up fouls and banging the big man around in a half where he only posted four points. He committed his third foul with two minutes left, stepping out of the game before Brown drained back-to-back threes and stole the ball from Nikola Jovic to pour in one more layup. Boston led 61-58 at half.

“(Miami) upped the physicality,” Mazzulla said, addressing Porzingis’ performance. “Switching, higher pick-up points. Gotta fight for better spacing and fight for those two-on-ones in the screening. On many of the screens, they won the battle … less obvious two-on-ones, so gotta get to our spacing quick and play out of that … less doubling … then, obviously their adjustment to shoot more. We’re gonna have to find a balance. A lot of those guys that made shots tonight are good drivers, especially getting downhill, so we’re gonna have to find that balance of making sure we close out appropriately, but we don’t want to start to open up the other side of that.”

The Heat shot ahead 12-6 into the third, forcing an early Mazzulla timeout as Boston continued to yield open three-point looks. Martin and Herro added two more threes, and Adebayo flushed a pair of dunks. Miami extended its run to take an 80-70 lead when Jrue Holiday took and missed a three immediately after his steal, then White threw a pass away to Jovic, who led Martin in transition for a layup that capped a 22-9 run.

Porzingis fell to 1-for-9 and exited the game in favor of Horford, who spaced while Tatum moved into the pocket to attack Robinson. He cut away from Horford and spun past Robinson for a pair of dunks, but met some physicality inside that forced a pair of misses.

We wanted it more,” Jaquez said. 

The Celtics answered their three minute drought with a 7-0 run, but still trailed 85-79 entering the final frame as Holiday and Tatum complained about a no-call on the latter’s drive. He missed 3-of-4 shots between the third and the fourth, then botched a pair of free throws at the line.

Adebayo hit three mid-rangers in a row to spark a run that White matched with six straight points before Haywood Highsmith and Jaquez buried the 21st and 22nd threes of the night. Martin delivered the 23rd as one of three Heat players to reach 20 points. Holiday said the Celtics’ game plan relied on those players missing shots, and when they make them at that rate, adjustment becomes necessary.

“It always works better when you make some shots,” Spoelstra said. “But those were the ones that were available. If we don’t take them, then it could potentially look like Game 1, where we get jammed up late in possessions. We’re dealing with a very good basketball team, and so are we. The margin for error both ways is small, so you have to do a lot of winning things.”

Boston and Miami continue the series at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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