MIAMI — The demons were born on Sunday night, those thoughts that stick in the head and on the lips of detractors.
He boston celtics they’ve played hundreds of memorable playoff games in their history, but for the foreseeable future, just saying “Game 3” is going to hurt without the necessary context.
Frankly, the Miami Heat they have a pretty good catalog of playoff moments, and yet their 128-102 victory to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals could also have its own special headline. Unexpected success is usually the sweetest, and the Heat and their fans were awash in that excitement.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, who is in the midst of painting his masterpiece as he stands on the brink of an unlikely career-clinching Finals appearance for a No. 8 seed who was three minutes shy of missing out on the play- in. tournament, he had to take measures to contain all emotions.
“That was a solid, mature, professional approach,” Spoelstra said Sunday night, realizing his job is now turning into managing massive success. “But we have respect, deep respect for Boston.”
It’s going to be tempting for the Celtics to make “Game 3” a defining moment. Letting the overwhelming disappointment of being completely dominated and humiliated provoke an angry response.
This is a hugely talented, experienced and expensive team that is coming out of the postseason with a bang. When that happens in professional sports, there’s usually a blame game that demands action.
There will be a pull for layoffs, trades and makeovers in Boston. It will be like a dam straining against a flood. In a matter of days and three losses, this has gone from a team favored by computers and bookmakers to win the title to a franchise in crisis.
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck spent much of the third quarter, as his team was being outscored 32-17, staring at his phone in his courtside seat trying to focus on something else.
Team president Brad Stevens stood outside the Celtics’ locker room after the game, stunned by what he had just seen, making sure to give the Heat credit for their win.
jayson tatumwho seven days earlier had played one of the greatest games in NBA history by setting a record by scoring 51 points in the Game 7 Eastern Conference semifinals win, crawled to the postgame podium wearing the suit completely white that he had chosen. for this game
Heat cruise to 26-point win over Celtics, take 3-0 series lead
Gabe Vincent and the Miami Heat took a huge lead early on and never looked back, thanks to the team’s 19 3-pointers in a 128-102 win over the Boston Celtics.
Miami chic, to be sure, but it turned out to be the wrong tenor after what happened in front of your typical Heat playoff crowd. He could have come off as confident; Tatum has had some incredible road playoff games in his career, but this was such a flat note that it was hard not to make a symbolic connection to the result.
“Obviously, we’re in a tough position,” Tatum said after an anemic 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting. “But we just have to have some pride.”
And then there was Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, whose game plan for taking full blame for the loss was as ineffective as his strategy for the game itself.
“I just didn’t have them ready to play,” Mazzulla said, over and over again. “I have to put them in a better place ready to play, and that’s up to me.”
Mazzulla does not protest too much. He was so over the top in trying to draw attention to himself and away from his team, a group that had played lifeless, that his tactics were transparent.
He’s learning a lot of lessons in his first playoffs as a head coach, and this was yet another. There’s an art to being a shield, and this wasn’t it.
There’s a wave of anger out of New England and growing anticipation elsewhere. Mazzulla will pay the price for this 0-3 hole that the Celtics find themselves in. Stevens is a firm believer in Mazzulla and made the decision to not only promote him but also make him the permanent manager midway through the season.
Stevens will tell you about his first season as an NBA coach in 2013, when he made mistake after mistake, some of them embarrassing. Like when he set up a lateral play out of bounds for a last-second shot only to realize, to his horror, after the timeout, that the ball was on the baseline and not the sideline.
Stevens knows that when you have a rookie coach, rookie mistakes happen.
Before Game 3, if you were anywhere near the Celtics, you’d know there was no chance Mazzulla wouldn’t return next season.
After Game 3, nothing feels safe.
There is a question about whether the Celtics can give jaylen brown an extension worth more than $280 million this offseason. His performance has been lousy in this series; he was 0-for-7 from 3-point range Sunday and is 2-for-20 from 3 in all three losses against Miami.
Before Game 3, it seemed like blocking the 26-year-old Brown was automatic; keeping a player his age in his position for five years is good business.
After Game 3, it’s human nature to wonder if the Tatum-Brown pairing is great or just great. And considering that they could both cost upwards of $50 million in salary per season soon, is very good really good enough?
“The series isn’t over yet,” Brown said. “It looks bad, but come out, be proud of yourself.”
This examination of conscience could continue. It’s easy to question what happened to the Celtics’ stout defense — they’re a shell of the team that made it to the Finals last season — but then there are the continual changes in the lineup and level of effort and the inexplicable delay for the double-teamed Heat. . star jimmy butler.
And that’s the penalty for going down the way the Celtics are in this impressive collapse. It will cost more than just a title shot. This is the kind of loss that can rob a team of its confidence and direction.
What has happened in the last five days for the Celtics is beyond disappointing. The Heat are just crushing them. But the way it has developed has now become so much more than that.
And that could be the true legacy of Game 3.
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