Celtics conduct unusual move ahead of pivotal Game 3 vs. Heat

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat already have the heavily favored Boston Celtics doing some unusual things as they prepare for Game 3 of the first round in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

Though teams typically do not hold a shootaround for a game with a tipoff earlier than 7 p.m., the Celtics were on the court at Kaseya Center early Saturday morning in advance of the 6 p.m. start time.

The Heat evened the best-of-seven series with a surprising 111-101 victory at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday. Miami set its franchise playoff record by making 23 3-pointers in the win.

That result looks like it has the Celtics – and other NBA observers – rethinking some things. With the loss, one NBA coach reportedly is wondering if Boston is “going to screw this up.”

The Celtics took the series opener at home on Monday by a 114-94 score, making 22 3-pointers of their own. Boston earned home-court advantage in the series and through the 2024 NBA Finals by posting the best record during the regular season.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said after Game 2. “There’s a lot of history between these two franchises, especially recently. … It’s never going to go exactly as people expect it to go and that’s the beauty of it.”

This is the third straight year the teams have met in the playoffs. Last season, the Heat defeated the Celtics in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals after losing to them in the 2022 conference finals. Both of those series went seven games.

Many observers thought this series had no chance to go that far, especially because Miami does not have the services of Jimmy Butler, who injured his knee during the play-in round and is out for multiple weeks. One of the star’s friends recently said that the Celtics should be “thanking the basketball gods” that they are not facing the Heat with a healthy Butler.

The 34-year-old is staying connected to his teammates and sent a motivational text message to Tyler Herro before the series began. Herro led Miami with 24 points and six 3-pointers in Game 2 after scoring just 11 points in Game 1.

As the Heat almost always seem to do, they are finding a way to remain competitive no matter the opponent or circumstances. They have reached the conference finals three times in the past four seasons and went to the NBA Finals in 2020 and 2023.

Game 4 of this series is at Miami on Monday.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.