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

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

After being flooded by Boston’s 3-point shooting in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series, Spoelstra said his team needs to do a better job of letting it fly in order to keep pace .

“I understand the math,” Spoelstra said, before adding, “We’re not going to shoot 50. That’s not realistic.”

Maybe 50 3-pointers wasn’t entirely realistic. But the upset Heat did very well with 43 attempts Wednesday night. And finishing with a franchise playoff record 23 triples, the Heat beat the Celtics 111-101 on the road in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1.

The series moves to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday.

The very nature of Wednesday’s upset is one reason the Game 2 result was remarkable. Miami trailed by 34 points in the opener, leading many to believe that, without star wing Jimmy Butler or starter Terry Rozier, it would be a four-game sweep.

Instead, the Heat became the first playoff team in the last 30 years to win by double digits despite being a 14-point or more underdog.

“We were doubted a lot during our playoffs, people said we couldn’t do a lot of the things we (eventually) did,” said Miami big man Bam Adebayo, who had 21 points on 9 out of 13 shots. and 10 boards. “So for me and my team, why lose confidence now? Our backs are against the wall. Everyone is against us. So use that as fuel.

“Our guys believe we can win. So let’s do it mano a mano – a cage fight. Let’s hoop.”

Miami’s ability to turn into a 3-point shooting team one game after being lit up from beyond the arc by a five-and-out Celtics team on the floor was very impressive. An NBA playoff record, 62.2% of the Heat’s points came from their 3-point shooting in Game 2. It was quite the opposite in the first game, in which only 38.2% of the club’s points came from behind the 3 line.

Miami had made more 3s at halftime in Game 2 (13) than in all of Game 1 (12).

Following Spoelstra’s decree, Miami winger Caleb Martin said he and his teammates looked to shoot whenever they were open in Game 2.

“I think it was realizing that being passive (as a shooter) was hurting us. We would just be playing into their game plan,” said Martin, who was booed relentlessly every time he he touched the ball after his mid-air collision at the end of the match with the Celtics star. Jayson Tatum in the series opener. “We’re too good a shooting team to hesitate from 3.”

Tyler Herro’s turnaround in Game 2 was the biggest. After scoring just 11 points on 13 shots in Game 1, he had 24 points on 13 shots, including six 3-pointers, and added 14 assists (the second most in a game in playoff history Heat playoffs).

“From what we’re seeing right now (in terms of injuries), he’s going to be involved one way or another, and sometimes that’s going to mean making the right play over and over again,” Spoelstra said of Herro . “And he had the law read several times tonight.”

Down three at halftime, the Heat took the lead and pulled away in the third period. In addition to catching fire — Miami was 6-for-9 deep in the quarter — the club also limited Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis every time he received the ball in the post. Porzingis finished just 1 of 9 from the field and was minus-32 on the night.

This clearly disrupted the flow of Boston’s usually steady offense and forced Tatum (28 points) and Jaylen Brown (33 points) to do a little too much dribbling at times.

“They’re obviously small and very athletic,” Celtics guard Jrue Holiday said. “They always invaded and didn’t let KP compete one-on-one.”

Miami’s victory improved Spoelstra to 10-3 in his career in the second game after losing the first game of a playoff series. Among those who have coached 10 such games, only Frank Vogel, who is 8-2 after a Game 1 loss, has a better winning percentage in NBA history.

With the Heat being considerable underdogs, it might be tempting to view their hot shooting night as an anomaly. But that could make their recent history with the Celtics short-lived, including their conference finals win over Boston as an underdog last season. Wednesday’s outing marked the fourth time in the last two postseasons that Miami shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc against Boston. No other team has reached that number more than once against a playoff opponent during that span.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said the natural adjustment after Miami’s historic shooting performance would be to put more pressure on the Heat’s shooters. But he cautioned against the notion of over-correction.

“We’re going to have to find a balance, because a lot of these shooters are also good drivers and are good downhill,” Mazzulla said. “We have to find that balance to make sure we can close appropriately so we don’t open up the other side.”

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