No other way to say it, we have a big one tonight folks. All the good feelings you may have as a Celtics fan after how this team responded in Game 3 means nothing if they don't show up tonight and even this series. Just because the Nuggets have been able to overcome two 3-1 deficits does not mean that everyone will or even that it's all that common. In fact, there have been a total of 257 playoff series in the history of the league that have gone 3-1. The team trailing has only won the series 13 times. That's right, it's a 244-13 record. The Celtics have done it twice, both in 1968 and 1981, but both of those came against the Sixers. Sadly, we already swept that sorry excuse for a franchise in the first round and I think we can all agree that the Miami Heat are very much not the 76ers.
As I blogged yesterday, both Heat and Celtics fans have even more to worry about tonight now that we know who the officials are going to be
With both Scott Foster and Tony Brothers involved, nobody knows what to expect other than there will definitely be some bullshit. Who it will favor is anyone's guess. The Celts are something insane like 3-18 with Brothers, but then at the same time the league always sends out Scott Foster when they want things extended. It's insane that we even have to consider this a factor for either side in such a huge game, but the NBA has made it clear they give no fucks.
Here's the thing though. The things that have plagued the Celts so far in this series and why they had three straight collapses has nothing to do with the officiating. That's why if they want to even this series up, it comes down to a few things for me.
1. Don't stop playing
That sounds obvious right? Well someone tell this team because it has happened in all three of the games in this series. The worst part, it usually comes around in the fourth quarter. There is no ball movement, guys stand around, they get lazy, and they turn it over.
Did you know in the fourth quarter in this series, the Celts are averaging nearly the same amount of TOs (4.7) as AST (5.0)? Only the Nuggets have been worse this round and guess who else is in a 1-2 hole. The Celts are also dead last in fourth quarter FG% on top of it. This happens because they stop playing. Everything that was successful in building their lead they decide to do the exact opposite in the most important moments. That's on Brad, that's on the players, just please don't do that shit tonight.
2. Let The Best 5 thrive
With Hayward back in the fold, we finally got to see Brad unleash The Best 5 in this series. The lineup of Kemba/Smart/Jaylen/Hayward/Tatum had played only 18 minutes together during the regular season, and quite frankly they were terrible. I'm talking a -21.5 net rating type bad.
Well that couldn't have been further from what we saw in Game 3. In their 7 minutes together they had a 162 Ortg / 76.5 Drtg / +86.0 net rating. That tells me we need to see that shit again tonight. Now Brad has to pick his spots with it, maybe one shift each half, but it does provide a number of matchup problems for the Heat, especially if Hayward continues to look healthy. The way Tatum rebounds allows you to move him to center, and this group had an 89.5% TS% in Game 3! That was the lineup that saw the lead start to balloon, and I need much more than 7 minutes of it tonight.
3. Keep Smart on Dragic
It's no secret that Goran Dragic is the head of the snake for the Heat. You stop him, you put yourself in a great position to win the game. Smart was nails on Dragic in the last game and held him to 0 points on their 14 possessions. Now this means Kemba will have to guard Jae Crowder, and he already said there's going to be adjustments there, but hopefully those adjustments are just Jae continuing to post up and maybe be more aggressive. That is NOT what he is good at and would be a win for the Celts. Anytime he's not taking spot up threes you take that.
4. Be aggressive against the zone
In Game 2, the Celts had an insane 58 drives and shot 52.4% on those drives. You saw it from everyone. Jaylen was aggressive, Tatum was great at lowering his shoulder and absorbing contact. It's pretty clear that when MIA goes to their zone, when the Celts move the ball quickly and then attack the gaps they can easily crack it. Now with Hayward in the mix I want the same shit from him too. Get into your sweet spot and force MIA to play man to man, a defense the Celts have lit up so far given their matchup issues.
5. Keep your mental composure
This might be the most important thing. Just accept now that you are going to get boned on calls. Theis in early foul trouble, Tatum not getting foul calls, they can't lose their shit. Spending more time complaining about not getting calls instead of getting back in transition is something that simply cannot happen in such an important game. Also, when has this complaining ever worked? It's not like the Celts are getting a better whistle because of it, so I'm going to need them to cut the shit.
You know the Heat are going to come out strong after letting Game 3 and the opportunity to effectively end this series slip through their hands. We've seen the Celts have success against this team in all three games, but we've also seen them blow their leads in all three. My guess is we're in for another wire to wire dogfight, and tip off cannot come soon enough.