NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics/Heat Game 3 Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Boston Celtics look to avoid falling behind by a 3-0 margin in the Eastern Conference finals tonight.

The Celtics raced out to a 17-point lead in the 2nd quarter in Game 2 of this series on Thursday. However, Miami responded by outscoring the Celtics by a 37-17 margin in the 3rd quarter to take the lead which propelled them to a 106-101 upset victory as a closing underdog at +2.5 points (with the total dropping to 207 in some locations after opening at 210.

Head coach Brad Stevens has to be concerned with his team’s inability to maintain double-digit leads in this series. The Celtics could just as easily be the ones up 2-0 in this series. Boston had a 14-point lead in the 4th quarter of Game 1 in this series on Tuesday before letting the Heat rally to force overtime before they eventually pulled out a 117-114 victory.

Frustrations mounted in the Celtics’ locker room after their second blown double-digit lead which led to their second-straight upset loss in this series. It was reported that Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown got into a shouting match before things calmed down. Will these outbursts rally the team together for this critical third game? Or were the verbal altercations that took place after Game 3 evidence of a team imploding amidst two months of practice and playing every-other-day in the Orlando bubble?

Help may be on the way for Boston with Gordon Hayward being upgraded from doubtful to questionable with the injured ankle that has kept him out of the playoffs since his injury in Game 1 of their opening-round series with Indiana. A Hayward return to the court could jumpstart the Celtics’ offensive attack that has struggled against Miami’s use of a 2-3 zone. However, how rusty will Hayward be with his shot if he can play tonight?

Stevens will not have the services of Romeo Langford on his bench tonight as he has been ruled out with a hip injury. However, Javonte Green has been upgraded to probable after dealing with a knee. The Heat should have Andre Iguodala available tonight with him being upgraded to probable with his sore back.

Game 3 is scheduled to start at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN. BetAnySports has the Celtics as a -3-point favorite which is interesting since Boston was -a 2.5-point favorite in most spots in the first two games of this series. BetAnySports has the over/under set at 207.5.

Looking ahead, Game 4 of this series is set for Wednesday of next week with both Eastern Conference teams getting three days off to accommodate the Western Conference catching up with its Nuggets/Lakers series. ESPN has the game with the game time scheduled for 8:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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