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Heat Expect to Let Threes Fly in Game 2 Against Celtics

BOSTON — Terry Rozier stood to the side in uniform with a ball in his hands before Tuesday’s practice and didn’t approach the rim or put up a shot. Trailing 1-0 in the series, Duncan Robinson announced his back won’t recover fully until he receives a longer layoff while Jimmy Butler was nowhere in sight. The Heat faced +8500 odds in one sports book and again enter a playoff game at Boston as double-digit underdogs.

One hope might remain with Butler unlikely to play in this series and no health update on Rozier’s neck available. Launch threes. A route to competitiveness the Heat previewed in the fourth quarter when Delon Wright led Miami from down by 31 points to within 14 by launching and hitting five threes to open the quarter. Boston held on for a 20-point win by hitting 22 threes, tying a franchise record, and converting 44.9% to the Heat’s 32.4%.

“At one point, I looked up, it was like 30+ threes to our seven or eight (attempts),” Wright said. “We’re not gonna be able to limit them from three, just make it tougher on them, but we do have to put up more threes. Don’t pass up the open shot. Like I said myself, I passed up a few, I just have to let it fly and same with the other guys that they’re leaving open.”

Wright noticed himself, Caleb Martin and other teammates open when Boston doubled Tyler Herro or Bam Adebayo. The three-point attempt battle, one of the biggest margin stats Joe Mazzulla emphasizes, finished 49-37 in Boston’s favor even as the Heat stayed within 82-81 in shot attempts. They mostly limited turnovers (9), but a pair of shot clock violations in that total showed where they hesitated against a long, switchable Celtics defensive effort. The Heat shot 43.9% from the field and 21.4% from three, only hitting three shots from deep.

Erik Spoelstra said schemes will prove less important than a mindset by Miami to reach and make multiple efforts against sometimes five Celtics shooters on the floor. They gave Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser enough space to finish 6-for-11 from deep. Boston attempted 42.5 threes per game during the regular season, the most in the NBA, while Miami took 33.7, which ranked 13th. Their efficiencies finished closer, 38.8% for the Celtics and 37.0% for the Heat. Herro took the most (7.9) each night, while Robinson, Rozier, Kevin LoveJosh Richardson and Kyle Lowry followed him, three of them injured and Lowry now in Philadelphia.

“You don’t want to lose 30 points in a certain area,” Spoelstra said. “We shot more threes last game. We still left some on the table. I don’t know if we’ll end up shooting 49. So there’s going to have to be some kind of balance bringing their number down a little bit. We’re not gonna bring their threes down to 25, that’s not realistic, and we’re not gonna shoot 50, but there is a balance there, a line where we can take a few more and hopefully get them off a few more.”

Three-point shooting, for all the talk of physicality, mindset, defense, runs and clutch performance, swung the east finals last season in a massive way. The Heat shot 43.4% from three for the series last year while the Celtics’ shooting shut off entirely, finishing 30.3% as Jayson Tatum fell to 23.4% and Jaylen Brown hit 16.3%. Mazzulla noted the Celtics have a game plan to limit the kind of threes the Heat want to take, specifically noting transition, and from the reverse perspective, to take something away, Miami would have to give Boston something.

The Celtics proved far more effective in winning when their threes didn’t fall this season, thanks mostly to Kristaps Porzingis’ 1.30 points per possession on post-ups. They finished 20-12 in games where they shot below the league average (36.6%) from three. That record was 19-20 in 2022-23. Tatum went 1-for-8 in Game 1, Brown finished 3-for-5 and Porzingis poured in 4-for-8 from three and 3-of-5 from two.

“We’re not just a three-point shooting team,” Holiday said. “A lot of players are getting to the paint, a lot of players can finish at the basket, we have mid-range players … we can go off in any facet … if they try to take away the 3, I think we have counters.”

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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