I have seen some ass-whuppings administered in my lifetime. I remember in the fifth-grade baseball playoffs beating the top overall seed by about 20 runs. To put a championship cap on Alabama’s 2012 football season the Tide ran through Notre Dame so viciously, that their opponents lost the desire to tackle after the first quarter. In Miami, I once saw a poor stumbling drunk fool get sucker punched so hard by a security guard on Collins that it echoed for a block. After getting cold-cocked, that unlucky spring breaker still looked more lively than the Boston Celtics did as they were pounded like tenderloin in Game 1 by the Miami Heat on Biscayne Blvd.
The game ended with the final score 128-102, but in the third quarter, the Celtics looked like they got hit harder than Ryan Garcia did last month in Las Vegas. There was no lead for the Celtics to let slip through their fingers on Sunday. The Heat came back home with a 2-0 lead, and after the five-minute mark of the first quarter had the Celtics desperately in need of water, an ice cube, a cracked window, anything to provide relief.
Celtics wilting under pressure
That pounding was relentless. Certainly the Celtics didn’t stand up to it the way that Joe Frazier did to the one that he received from Muhammed Ali in The Thrilla in Manilla. However, Frazier’s coach stopped that contest— with his fighter not being able to see out of either eye — in the 15th and final round.
In the NBA the corner and referees don’t stop the fight. Individual players can be forced to leave the floor due to injury or misconduct, but the game will reach the 48-minute mark unless there is a catastrophe like fans inciting a riot in Auburn Hills, Mich.
With no towel to be thrown in, the Celtics were forced to endure every blow from the Heat on national television. The counter punch from the Heat that kept rocking the Celtics to their knees was shot-making. For the first three quarters of Game 3, the Heat shot better than 57 percent from the field in each one. In the fourth, they shot a paltry 54.5 percent with only bench players on the floor.
Gabe Vincent led the way
While Jimmy Butler has been great in the Eastern Conference Finals, he only shot 38.5 percent from the field for the game. Most of that work was done in the third quarter. Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Duncan Robinson each attempted more than 10 field goals and converted on better than 63 percent of their attempts, as well as better than 57 percent from the 3-point line.
Vincent scored 29 points and missed three shots the entire game. Combine that with Bam Adebayo trying to dunk on every human being in his path, and the Celtics eventually found the limits to human resistance. When the Celtics were down 30 points to start the fourth quarter, Joe Mazzula parked four of his five starters on the bench for the entire 12 minutes.
On Monday morning, the television shows are going to berate the Celtics for their Game 3 effort. I would advise viewers — and listeners of Boston sports talk radio — to keep speaker volumes low to avoid noise complaints.
The Celtics’ effort wasn’t great at times, but they didn’t come into the game looking to assume the fetal position for most of the night. The reality is that they were beaten into it. As well as the Heat played in Game 1 and Game 2, the Celtics had plenty of opportunities to win both.
Boston never had a chance
There was no chance for victory on Sunday night. That never-ending parade of jump shots might as well have been Pat Riley punching Brad Stevens in the gut once every minute. The Celtics were shooting lifeless LA Fitness 3-pointers because getting socked in the heart repetitively over the course of an evening takes its toll.
Tease the Celtics, insult their resilience and coach, even hate on Jaylen Brown’s future earning for those who want to drink Boston tears. The Celtics were atrocious in Game 3, but they deserve far less of the blame than the Heat do credit. A beatdown of epic proportions was delivered in Downtown Miami, and the Celtics were forced to curl up in a ball and take it.