The Boston Celtics recently fell into a 0-2 hole against the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference Finals series. It was very frustrating as both were winnable games with rough endings. In Game 1, they lost in overtime thanks to a highlight reel block from Bam Adebayo, while in Game 2, they blew a 17-point lead and got blasted by tough shots in the fourth quarter.
Following Game 2’s 106-101 loss, rumours flew about a heated altercation in the Celtics’ locker room, highlighted by an irate Marcus Smart… and some flying things.
Marcus Smart is screaming in the #Celtics locker room and there is a bunch of arguing going on. Smart comes out say “y’all on that bullshit!” Team is imploding. Smart is in bathroom and there is still screaming coming from locker room.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) September 18, 2020
Facing tons of pressure, Boston caught a break as Gordon Hayward made his return in Game 3. The former All-Star plays a key part in the rotation, and has been out for almost a month due to an ankle injury.
Hayward tallied a modest six points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one block in 31 minutes of action, but proved his biggest value by opening up better space and scoring opportunities for the main scorers: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker, who all had solid performances. Most importantly, though, the Celtics finally answered back, 117-106, to make it a series.
It’s all looking better now: Celtics fans have breathed out a sigh of relief, the locker room drama feels like a distant memory, and the team is feeling more confident than last week.
Smart, who’s also the group’s emotional leader, is feeling mellower as the return of Hayward also signified the re-emergence of the Celtics’ “Best 5” lineup, which features the two of them alongside the Celtics’ aforementioned high-scoring trio. He’s pretty hyped about it too.
In Game 3, the five were on the court together for seven minutes and played superbly. They were +13 in that stretch as they racked up 26 quick points.
Marcus Smart on the “Best Five” lineup: “It’s just different. We’ve got a lot of firepower in that group. We’ve got a lot of length and versatility. If you lock in on one or two guys, all the other guys can hurt you.”— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) September 21, 2020
With Hayward becoming more of a decoy and mostly contributing outside the stat sheet, the other four flourished everywhere, particularly on offense. Tatum, Brown, Walker, and Smart all had 20 or more points, and tallied 21 of the team’s 27 assists.
More good news on the Celtics’ side popped up during the postgame interviews, as it was the Miami’s turn to be frustrated. Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler was straight-forward as always, saying that playing from behind all the time “gets old.”
Well, one thing’s for sure, this match-up just got more intense as the balance of momentum is back. Fans will be treated to another entertaining playoff war.
The Eastern Conference Finals will proceed this Thursday, September 24, at 8:30 AM, Manila time.