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Blistering Heat look to end Celtics’ season with sweep

May 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) and forward Jimmy Butler (22) react after a play during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Scintillating play by Jimmy Butler and consistent performances by Bam Adebayo have carried the eighth-seeded Miami Heat on their Cinderella run through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Butler and Adebayo were not alone in Miami’s most recent outing, however.

After receiving a significant boost from an undrafted quartet of players, the Heat look to punch their ticket to their second NBA Finals appearance in four seasons on Tuesday when they host the Boston Celtics.

A resounding 128-102 victory on Sunday gave Miami a commanding 3-0 series lead over second-seeded Boston in the Eastern Conference final.

In NBA circles, a 3-0 deficit is akin to a death knell for the trailing club. No team in league history has overcome such a deficit to win a series.

“It’s the first to four games. We’re not satisfied with three,” said Gabe Vincent, who led all scorers Sunday with a career-high 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the floor and 6-of-9 from 3-point range.

Vincent and fellow undrafted players Duncan Robinson (22), Caleb Martin (18) and Max Strus (10) combined to score 79 points to allow Butler and Adebayo to essentially kick up their heels.

“We were able to put the game on our terms,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team shot a blistering 56.8 percent from the field (46 of 81) and 54.3 percent from 3-point range (19 of 35). “(With Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo out injured) we need Gabe’s assertiveness. It can’t just be Jimmy and Bam. You need a lot of guys contributing.”

“To their credit, they’re playing well above their means,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “They’re ballin’ right now, and I’ve got to give them respect. Gabe Vincent, Martin, Strus, Duncan Robinson, guys that we should be able to keep under control are playing their (expletive) off.”

On the flip side, Boston’s celebrated duo of Jayson Tatum and Brown combined to make just 12 of 35 shots from the floor and 1 of 14 from 3-point range on Sunday. Brown, in fact, is just 2-for-20 from beyond the arc in the series.

As a team, the Celtics are shooting themselves in the foot from 3-point range (31-for-106, 29.2 percent), while the Heat are shooting the lights out (44-for-92, 47.8 percent) from beyond the arc.

Still, the most ardent of Boston fans will harken back to the time that the 2004 Red Sox overcame a 3-0 series deficit to stun the rival New York Yankees on their way toward winning the World Series. So, anything is possible.

“We’re not out yet,” Al Horford said. “It is 3-0. I know what it looks like.

“(But) we’re not out yet. We’re still kicking. One of four teams that are still kicking.”

Miami’s Kevin Love collected five quick points and two rebounds before exiting Sunday’s game with an apparent ankle injury. Spoelstra told reporters that the 34-year-old Love “says he’s fine” despite failing to return to the game.

“He said he probably could’ve gone in in the second half, but we just wanted to re-evaluate it,” Spoelstra said. “We were up 15, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s just make sure we know what’s going on.”

–Field Level Media

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