After a tough overtime loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, in which the Boston Celtics blew a double-digit second-half lead, they came into Game 2 on Thursday night knowing things had to be different. Instead it was more of the same.
Leading by as much as 17 at one point, the Celtics were bullied by the Miami Heat in the third quarter and lost another brutal game 106-101.
The Heat, led by Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, outscored the Celtics 37-17 in the third quarter, which was actually the only quarter the Heat won in the game, but it was enough to steal the win. The Celtics had no answer for Miami’s zone defense nor their pick-and-roll offense and honestly looked lost on the court in that third quarter.
Boston was able to recover in the fourth and even took the lead back late, but Miami made more plays down the stretch, most notably, two dagger jump shots from Dragic who led the team with 25 points. Jaylen Brown hit a couple of late 3-pointers to keep the Celtics in the game but missed the potential game-tying one with 15 seconds left.
The Heat showed that they will continue to be a thorn in the Celtics’ side by refusing to go away no matter the deficit.
After the game, tempers boiled over in the Celtics’ locker room, with several players arguing loud enough that it leaked through the walls. Even though the players tried to downplay the incident as normal frustration, it was apparently serious enough for head coach Brad Stevens to call a late-night meeting with his team leaders to work things out.
Well, apparently the meeting helped because in Game 3 on Saturday night, the Celtics got off to the fast start that we’ve been seeing, but unlike the last two games, they held that lead in the second half. In fact, the Celtics never trailed at all in the 117-106 win. They never let the Heat go on anything more than mini scoring runs and always had an answer on the offensive end.
Brown and Jayson Tatum had phenomenal games, leading Boston with 26 and 25 points, respectively. Tatum added 14 rebounds and eight assists. Two more Celtics starters also scored over 20 points, with Kemba Walker scoring 21 and Marcus Smart adding 20, including some huge free throws to ice the game.
Besides their core four getting back on the same page, the Celtics also benefited from getting Gordon Hayward back after missing a month with a sprained ankle. He was big off the bench, doing a little bit of everything with six points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Celtics needed a win to potentially save their season, and now they’re right back in the series down 2-1. Game 4 will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Western Conference Finals got underway on Friday night with a dominating win by the Los Angeles Lakers over the Denver Nuggets. The 126-114 final score isn’t indicative of how much of a blowout this game really was, as the Lakers led by 24 points after three quarters and were able to rest their starters for much of the fourth.
In just 33 minutes, Anthony Davis went off for 37 points and 10 rebounds. LeBron James added 15 points and 12 assists in 31 minutes. It was lob city in the bubble, as the Lakers dunked all over the mismatched Nuggets in Game 1. After a back-and-forth first quarter that Denver actually led after, the Lakers hit their stride and dominated quarters two and three to put the game away.
It’s only Game 1, and we’ve seen the Nuggets come back from a 3-1 lead already twice this postseason. So they’ve earned the right to never be counted out, but they have to find some answers for the Lakers, especially in the paint, if they are going to make this series interesting.
Game 2 happens Sunday night, and Game 3 will follow on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.