NBA Playoffs Update: Boston Lands the Latest Blow in the ECF, Does Miami Have Enough Left in the Tank?

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NBA Playoffs Update: Boston Lands the Latest Blow in the ECF, Does Miami Have Enough Left in the Tank?

Chicago Bulls

In a back-and-forth affair, the Boston Celtics landed the latest blow to even up the Eastern Conference Finals, leaving me wondering if Miami has enough left in the tank to go the distance with the Celtics in this series.

Celtics 102, Heat 82

Series: TIED 2-2

In last night’s pre-gamin’ post, I mentioned that The Ringer‘s playoffs odds machine has this series’ most likely outcome pegged as Boston in seven games. I don’t know if the Celtics end up winning the series, but this one going seven games sure as heck seems like a safe bet as Miami and Boston continue to take turns exchanging knockout punches thus far.

With the Celtics looking to bounce back from a home loss in Game 3, needing to even things up before the series shifted to Miami, the first quarter couldn’t have played out any better for the Celtics on Monday night. Miami didn’t make their first field goal until Victor Oladipo hit a three-pointer eight minutes and thirty-eight seconds left in the first quarter. Miami opened the game 1-of-16 from the floor and trailed the Celtics 29-11 after the first quarter.

The Celtics came out with a sense of urgency that they lacked two nights prior when they allowed Miami to take a game from them on their home floor. That’s been the theme of the series thus far, wildly inconsistent performances from both Boston and Miami. A Jekyll and Hyde of sorts where the two teams seemingly trade energy and effort. Jayson Tatum believes that human nature and fight or flight instinct play a part in it.

“I think just having a conversation that I think human nature plays a part in. When you win a game, you can relax a little bit,” Tatum said. “But obviously, when we lose a game, we feel like the next game is do-or-die, and then we come out and play like we did.”

That makes sense. It doesn’t sound like the best way to approach the Eastern Conference Finals but to each their own. Celtics big man Robert Williams feels a little differently than Tatum: “We shouldn’t have to get punched in the mouth to respond,” Robert Williams said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Williams was one of the keys to the Celtics’ victory tonight. Williams scored 12 points and logged nine rebounds and a pair of blocks. The 24-year-old big shot 4-of-5 from the floor and was a perfect 4-of-4 at the charity stripe. Still, it was what Williams provided the Celtics on the defensive end that made the most significant impact on Miami’s awful shooting display on Monday night. Williams and Horford, both in the lineup together, made the Celtics’ drop-zone defense Miami’s kryptonite.

Jimmy Butler was held to just six points on 3-of-14 shooting and did not make one trip to the free throw line, easily the worst playoff (maybe even regular season) performance of Butler’s career. Miami shot 33 percent (30-of-90) in the losing effort on Monday night as a team. Only Victor Oladipo scored more than 20 points as he paced Miami’s scoring efforts with 23 points. Oladipo hit the first Miami field goal of the night and remained the only player who could consistently knock down anything. Bam Adebayo was held to just nine points, and Max Strus and P.J. Tucker put up goose eggs.

It’s clear that Miami is banged up, and they’re feeling the effects of their mounting injury concerns. Jimmy Butler missed the second half of Miami’s Game 3 victory in Boston Saturday night as he dealt with right knee irritation, but Butler says that’s no excuse for his dismal performance last night.

“I’m straight. No excuse for how I played tonight … nothing to do with my knee,” Butler said. “I’ve just got to be better. I will be better. I’m not too worried about it.”

Still, Max Strus (hamstring) and P.J. Tucker (knee) have been hobbled by lower-body injuries, and both scored nothing on Monday night. Kyle Lowry has missed multiple games this postseason due to injury, and one has to wonder at this point if the Heat have enough left in the tank to outlast the Celtics in a series almost sure to go the distance.

Tomorrow night will be a pivotal matchup for both teams, but it will be vital to the Heat. It’s Miami’s turn to strike in this back and forth series, and we’ll see whether or not Miami is healthy enough to compete with the Celtics.

Here are the highlights from last night’s Boston victory courtesy of NBA.com’s YouTube channel:



Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.