• Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals saw the Celtics finally get over the hump, handing the Heat just their second loss of the postseason. For the Celtics, they had four players with at least 20 points compared to the Heat with just two. Both teams will now get a well-deserved break before Game 4 which takes place on Wednesday.

    Celtics build another early lead, finally going the distance

    After blowing sizeable leads in each of the first two games, the Celtics finally made the most of their early game domination. Leading by as much as 20 points in the fourth quarter, there were certainly a couple of tense moments before steadying for the 11-point victory. The victory breathes life back into the series with the Heat now leading 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday.

    Gordon Hayward returned for the Celtics and while his numbers were solid, his impact on the game was certainly obvious. Perhaps the biggest positive to come out of the game other than the victory was the fact Hayward was able to play 31 minutes. Conditioning was not a major factor and with a three-day rest coming up, he should be raring to go as the Celtics look to level the series at 2-2. Hayward’s presence allowed both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown some freedom on the offensive end of the floor. While seen as primarily a scorer, Hayward’s court vision and ability to involve his teammates is perhaps his best quality. He also provides an element of size on the wing for the Celtics, garnering himself three steals and one block in what was a well-rounded performance.

    Brown was more aggressive from the opening tip and led the way with a team-high 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He was able to get to the ring with ease and actually attempted just two 3-pointers on the night. Tatum also looked much more focused on offense, ending with 25 points to go with 14 rebounds. Joining the two young superstars with at least 20 points were Kemba Walker (21 points) and Marcus Smart (20 points). Both shot 50 percent from the floor, with Smart adding a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe. The balanced scoring is something the Celtics are going to have to replicate if they are to get by the Heat. Daniel Theis continues to struggle with foul issues and he needs to be a better decision-maker if he is to have any sort of impact on the outcome.

    The Heat finally cooled off on the offensive end with a number of players struggling to find their rhythm. Goran Dragic has been simply outstanding over the course of the playoffs but managed just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting. The Celtics did a fantastic job of limiting his options and certainly need to be commended on their defensive rotations. Jae Crowder has also been strong for the Heat but fell in a hole on Saturday, going 2-of-10 from the field. Their second unit was even worse with all four bench options, other than Tyler Herro, shooting a combined 1-of-12 in limited minutes.

    Speaking of Herro, he certainly came to play, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second quarter, keeping the Heat within striking distance. Along with Bam Adebayo, they combined for almost half of the team’s 106 points. Adebayo did everything he could in what was another dominant performance. He led the team in basically every category and continues to have his way around the rim on both ends of the floor. Duncan Robinson hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers late in the game, totaling 13 points with very little else.

    Getting a read on how this series is going to play out is difficult given what we have seen thus far. The Celtics have arguably had the best of all three games, yet they find themselves behind 2-1. The return of Hayward could prove to be a pivotal moment when all is said and done. Despite trailing, the Celtics have to feel good about themselves heading into Game 4. If the Heat can scrap their way to another victory, they will certainly be viewed as the favorites moving forward. A victory to the Celtics would level things up at 2-2 and the momentum would be with the team in green.

    On This Day…

    With very few games on the slate moving forward, let’s take some time to look back at what happened on this day in NBA history.

    Donatas Motiejunas born in 1990

    Motiejunas was taken with the 20th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He played five seasons in the league before heading to China for two seasons, followed by a three-game stint for the Spurs in 2018-19. His best season was with the Rockets in 2014-15, where he finished as the 125th ranked player in standard leagues. During that campaign, he played in 71 games, starting 62 of them, averaging 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 29 minutes per game.

    2018 – ‘In an interview with The Athletic, Enes Kanter said that he expects 3-pointers to be part of his game this season’ 

    This has certainly not aged too well with Kanter yet to even look like a real threat from the 3-point line. In fact, since that interview, Kanter has made a total of 11 triples in a combined 125 games. At this point, it is fair to say opposition defenses should not view Kanter as a threat to explode from beyond the perimeter.

    2017 – ‘Raptors have talked up Pascal Siakam as one of their best defenders and that they believe he will be a full time starter “one-day” according to Josh Lewenberg’

    In stark contrast, the Raptors were right on the money with this prediction. Not only is Siakam now a full-time starter, but he was also recently named to the All-NBA Second Team. He has been arguably the most improved player over the past three years and despite an underwhelming playoff series against the Celtics, Siakam figures to demand a high draft pick if you would like to secure his services in fantasy next season.

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