One aspect of the regular season has carried over for the Heat in the Playoffs lately: the need to get things done the hard way. And it’s back to Miami for Game 6 following two straight Ls after winning the first three. Pressure is mounting on both sides.
The Celtics now have high expectations to beat the Heat. But two consecutive wins have elevated the confidence of the Green monster. The White and Red still control the series, yet it has allowed the speculation of Boston making history to go from whispers to bold public predictions by famous media members. It doesn’t feel like the Heat is trying to avoid being the first team in NBA history to avoid giving up a 3-0 lead, yet. That could change if the squad is not careful.
At least two ESPN peeps have courageously said the Celtics will be the first to overcome the 0-3 albatross: Ignoramus Mike Greenberg and ex-player Richard Jefferson.
Game 6 is in Miami, but the Celtics snatched the fourth one there, making it capable of going behind enemy lines for a dub against this opponent. Keep in mind, the Cs defeated the Heat in the last three matches in Miami last season. That’s an outfit immune to the Miami flu.
The Heatles were frazzled again Thursday. There was a lack of synchronicity on both sides. First, the hosts overhelped on the wrong assignments and were delayed closing out to marksmen. On offense, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo shot blanks and couldn’t stop the bleeding.
Lead guard Gabe Vincent was absent with a sprained left ankle. Kyle Lowry started for him but was invisible, minus when committing four turnovers and one dime off a pick-and-pop play with Adebayo.
It only took Boston five minutes to ascend to a double-digit lead it never conceded. Jayson Tatum skinned the defense with sleight of hand when the Heat doubled him and found open snipers in transition. Covered or open, Jaylen Brown spat fire from deep and broke the 2-3 zone by going hard at the middle.
The visitors cut the deficit to a dozen near the end of the second quarter. Yet, the Cs countered with a pair of steals and two triples to extend the advantage back to 17 points.
Adebayo and Butler played 12 minutes in the third quarter, but the visitors couldn’t make up the difference. Coach Erik Spoelstra saw enough at the start of the fourth to sit Butler on the bench, as he already had #13.
At the postgame presser, Butler said the team needed to play better, starting earlier.
The role players become self-reliant when Butler successfully leads the attack, so it’s incumbent upon him to convert more than four points on one of five attempts in 12 opening minutes while Tatum and friends feast inside the paint.
Spoelstra said he isn’t concerned about the team’s mental state.
“We have a gnarly group,” Spoelstra said. “I think so much of that is overrated. It’s a competitive series. You always expect things to be challenging in a Conference Finals, and one game doesn’t lead into the next game. Based off all the experience we’ve had…”
Every series is different. What Spoelstra said was true facing off with the Bucks and Knicks, but in round three, the Heat’s had its least inspiring performance of the Playoffs following a loss in its building. A review in the film room will sting some egos but it might be the right antidote to bury the Green.
The Heat will not practice Friday.
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