Heat torch Celtics with 23 3-pointers to even streak in Game 2

BOSTON — The day before his short-handed Heat sought to even the score with the heavily favored Celtics, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra made an intriguing comment about his team's identity.

After getting bogged down by Boston's 3-point shooting in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series, Spoelstra said his team needs to do a better job of not letting it fly to keep the momentum going.

“I understand the math of it,” Spoelstra said, “and we're not going to shoot 50 of them. That's not realistic.”

50 3-point shots aren't very realistic. But the despondent Heat did just fine on Wednesday night with 43 attempts. Finishing with a playoff franchise record 23 treys, the Heat defeated the Celtics 111–101 in Game 2 to tie the series at 1–1.

The series moves to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday.

The sheer nature of Wednesday's upset is one reason why the outcome of Game 2 was so significant. Miami trailed by 34 in Game 1, without star wing Jimmy Butler or starter Terry Rozier, leading many to believe it was a four-game sweep.

Instead, the Heat became the first playoff team in 30 years to win by double digits after trailing by 14 points or more.

“We got a lot of doubt with our playoff runs and people said we couldn't do a lot of things. [eventually] Miami big man Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 10 boards on 9-of-13 shooting. “For me and my team, why lose hope now? Our backs are against the wall. Everyone is against us. So just use it as fuel.

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“Our guys believe we can win. So let's make a mano a mano — a cage fight. Let's ring.”

After being lit up from beyond the arc by a five-gauge, floor-spacing Celtics team, Miami's ability to fashion a 3-point gunning team in a game was impressive. An NBA playoff-record 62.2% of the Heat's points in Game 2 came from their 3-point shooting. This was a stark contrast in Game 1, during which just 38.2% of the club's points came from behind the 3 line.

Miami connected on more 3s at halftime in Game 2 (13) than it did in Game 1 (12).

Following Spoelstra's mandate, Miami wing Caleb Martin said he and his teammates came out to shoot whenever they were open in Game 2.

“I think it felt passive [as shooters] Hurts us. We'll play their game plan,'' said Martin, who after colliding with Celtics star Jayson Dodd in the series opener, yelled incessantly whenever he touched the ball. The team should stay away from the 3.”

Tyler Hero's Game 2 turnaround was huge. After scoring just 11 points on 13 shots in the opener, he scored 24 points on 13 shots, including six 3-pointers, and added 14 assists (second most in a single game in Heat playoff history).

“It's based on how we are right now [in terms of injuries]He's going to get involved one way or another, and sometimes that means making the right play over and over,” Spoelstra said of Hero. “He made the right read over and over again tonight.”

Down three at halftime, the Heat took the lead and chipped away a bit in the third period. Besides catching fire — Miami was 6-for-9 in the quarter — the club limited Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis whenever he got the ball in the post. Porzingis finished just 1-for-9 from the field and was minus-32 on the night.

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It clearly disrupted the flow of Boston's usually steady offense and forced Tatum (28 points) and Jaylen Brown (33 points) to do a bit more off the dribble at times.

“They're obviously shorter and more athletic,” Celtic guard Jrue Halliday said. “They've always rallied and never let KP get away from each other.”

Miami's win moved Spoelstra to 10-3 in his career in Game 2s after dropping the first game of the playoff series. Of those who have coached 10 such games, only Frank Vogel, who is 8-2 after a Game 1 loss, has the best winning percentage in NBA history.

Given that the Heat are a sizable underdog, it might be tempting to write off their hot shooting night as an anomaly. But doing so may be selling their recent history with the Celtics short, including their conference finals victory over Boston last season. Wednesday's road trip marked the fourth time in the last two postseasons that Miami shot 50% or better against Boston. No other team has scored more than once against a playoff opponent in that span.

The natural adjustment after Miami's historic shooting performance will be putting more pressure on the Heat's shooters, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. But he cautioned against the notion of overcorrection.

“We have to find a balance because a lot of those shooters are good drivers and good downhillers,” Mazzulla said. “We have to find a balance that makes sure we can close appropriately, so we don't open the other side of it.”

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