Boston Celtics Facing Elimination: Can They Overcome a 3-0 Deficit?

Gabe Vincent confidently sank yet another 3-pointer as Marcus Smart’s layup attempt went awry, extending the Heat’s lead to a commanding 23 points early in the third quarter. At that moment, Jimmy Butler knelt at center court, signaling for a timeout from the Celtics, a move reminiscent of Al Horford’s failed taunt in a previous Eastern Conference finals. However, Horford’s offense had come before the Celtics squandered consecutive 12-point leads, leading to their current predicament.

Meanwhile, Max Strus, the same player whom the Celtics had released to make room for Tacko Fall, their symbolic player for garbage-time minutes, drew a technical foul for taunting his former team. Reflecting on his first-ever NBA career taunting tech, Strus attributed it to Butler’s influence, stating, “Jimmy got that one for me. I was following his lead. It might not have been the smartest move, but I’ll take it, whatever it is.” When asked about the specific words he used, Strus cryptically responded, “Can’t say that in here.”

NBA Playoffs Celtics fall apart

With a resounding 128-102 victory, Miami was openly mocking the heavily favored Boston Celtics, now holding an astonishing 3-0 series lead. Having previously eliminated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in just five games, the Heat were on the verge of sweeping the second seed and securing their spot in the NBA Finals. The upcoming Game 4, set to take place on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT, presented Miami with the opportunity to achieve this feat on their home court.

There is little merit in dissecting this game further, as the Heat thoroughly outplayed the Celtics until they essentially threw in the towel, possibly even before boarding the plane. Undoubtedly, this was Boston’s most embarrassing performance in a postseason marred by several lackluster showings. Nevertheless, the Kaseya Center reveled in the Celtics’ demise, celebrating their victory enthusiastically.

Amidst the game’s intensity, only a couple of minutes he has had passed since Strus received his technical foul. Jayson Tatum, seemingly disengaged, allowed Caleb Martin to score another wide-open jump shot effortlessly. Unfortunately, Tatum committed a turnover on the subsequent possession, leading to a layup by Strus. With the Heat leading 83-56, coach Mazzulla called yet another timeout, but the situation only worsened from there.

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At one point, Miami enjoyed a staggering 33-point lead, which might as well have been 69, given how lopsided the game had become. The entire cast of undrafted Heat players, including Vincent, Strus, Robinson, and Martin, contributed a combined 79 points on 62.2% shooting, including a remarkable 54.8% from beyond the arc. In stark contrast, the seven-man rotation that the Celtics had relied on to defeat the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers in the previous rounds managed just 59 points on a dismal 33.3% shooting from the field, with a paltry 19.4% accuracy from three-point range. Vincent, who had been playing for the Sioux Falls team in the past, scored a playoff career-high of 29 points, surpassing the combined efforts of All-NBA wings Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who could only muster 26 points on 12-of-35 field goals and a woeful 1-of-14 from beyond the arc.

Does any more need to be said? In a game where victory was paramount, the Celtics’ response to losing the opening quarter, 30-22, was lackluster, epitomized by Robinson strolling through the lane for an easy layup on the first possession of the second quarter. Instead of pushing the tempo and capitalizing on transition opportunities, Marcus Smart, trailing by 13, resorted to flopping in the backcourt as his only means of generating offense, resulting in an offensive foul. When they were down by 21, Brown and Tatum stood motionless at the top of the key, seemingly devoid of any game plan, until Brown launched a wayward three-pointer with nine seconds remaining on the shot clock. It was unclear whether they had a cohesive strategy at all. Even if they did, it hardly mattered, as Smart, Tatum, Brown, Horford, and Brogdon all unleashed airballs—an astonishing display of their ineptitude.

Tatum expressed his disappointment, saying, “Honestly, it’s disheartening. We had hoped to perform better, play better, and achieve a different outcome, or at the very least, give ourselves a fighting chance. It’s tough. For some reason, we didn’t have it tonight. At this stage of the season, you don’t want to admit that, but the responsibility lies with us.”

During the second quarter, the Celtics briefly trimmed the deficit to 15 points and had an opportunity to reduce it further. However, instead of attacking aggressively, Derrick White slowed down on the break, allowing Cody Zeller to block his shot. Predictably, on the subsequent possession, Butler scored on Grant Williams, drew a foul, and then sprawled on the court, pointedly mocking the Celtics forward for what felt like an eternity. It marked the second time in three days that Butler had publicly humiliated a member of the Celtics in front of a national audience.
By the fourth quarter, no significant players remained on the court. The Celtics had long surrendered.

“There are no words,” Brown sighed. “It’s an obvious disappointment. We let down our fan base, our organization, and ourselves. It was a collective failure. Of course, we can assign blame, but ultimately, it was simply embarrassing.”
Rarely has a coach come so close to tendering his resignation while a playoff series is still ongoing, but Mazzulla’s comments teetered on the brink.


In conclusion, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a dire situation after a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat. The Heat have dominated the series, holding a commanding 3-0 lead and leaving the Celtics on the brink of elimination. This defeat not only highlights the Celtics’ shortcomings but also raises questions about the team’s cohesion and ability to rise to the occasion.

Coach Mazzulla shoulders a significant portion of the blame, openly admitting his failure to prepare the team adequately. There appears to be a disconnect between him and the players, further exacerbating the team’s struggles. The Celtics’ defensive identity, once a source of strength, has waned, and their offensive execution has been lackluster at best.

With the possibility of a sweep looming, the Celtics face a critical moment that may dictate their future. Changes, both in coaching and the roster, seem inevitable. However, the outcome of Game 4 will reveal the true character of the Celtics as they decide whether to fight and salvage some pride or succumb to defeat.

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