The Boston Celtics will take the floor for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals hoping to avoid a three-game deficit. After leading by 17 points in the first half, a massive third-quarter collapse sent the Celtics back to the drawing board heading into a pivotal Game 3 on Saturday night.
After an altercation in Boston’s locker room, it will be important for the Celtics to collect themselves before a must-win game. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. Quite simply, Boston’s season and its title hopes are on the line.
Here are three things to watch for Saturday night as the Celtics take on the Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Can the Celtics contain the Heat’s second punch?
The result of this series will depend on if the Celtics can contain the inevitable second punch from Miami. Boston held a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter of Game 1, only to lose in overtime. In Game 2, they led by 17 in the first half before being outscored by 20 in the third quarter.
Miami started slow in both games during the series, something that wasn’t the case in the Eastern Conference semifinals versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Teams cannot let the Heat stick around, because this a resilient group that keeps fighting. The Celtics scored only 41 points in the second half of Game 2, which is a recipe for disaster.
With the most important game of series upon them, the Celtics must protect their leads in crunch time.
Will Duncan Robinson return to his old form?
Game 2 represented the resurgence of Duncan Robinson. After scoring fewer than 10 points in five of his last eight games, Robinson erupted for 18 points, going 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. It was his first game with at least five three-point makes since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
During the regular season, Robinson was lights-out almost every night. The NBA Playoffs have been a different story. He has struggled with foul trouble early in games, which has taken away his opportunity to get hot. The most important thing for the Heat will be to get Robinson going right away and for him to avoid unnecessary fouls.
The second-year forward out of Michigan has shown he can light up the floor at any time. If Robinson can start clicking off consistent games, it will be a bad sight for teams in the future.
Does Kemba Walker continue off his Game 2 performance?
Kemba Walker made his presence known in Game 2 with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Coming off a disappointing performance in Game 1, below his standards of play, Boston’s star guard went 9-of-19 from the field.
Right off the bat, Walker showed Miami it couldn’t contain him for the whole series. Toronto did a good job of containing Walker in a box-and-one set during the Eastern Conference semifinals. Although, Miami used its 2-3 zone defense to counter the Celtics and Walker in the third quarter, when they were outscored by 20 points.
If the Celtics can find a way to counterattack Miami’s zone defense in Game 3, it should help them maintain their lead if they were to gain one. Saturday night will represent the most important game of Walker’s career yet. He has to show up and lead Boston to a win.
Eastern Conference Finals schedule and results
Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114 (F/OT)
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101 (F)
Game 3: Saturday, September 19, 2020, 8:30 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Game 4: Wednesday, September 23, 2020, 8:30 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Game 5*: Friday, September 25, 2020, 8:30 p.m. EST (EPSN)
Game 6*: Sunday, September 27, 2020, 7:30 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Game 7*: TBD
(* if necessary)
Coverage of tonight’s Heat and Celtics game starts at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.