Hold off on those round-trip plane tickets to San Francisco for the NBA Finals.
And forget about Celtics-In-Five.
Two days after dominating Miami in Game 2, the Celtics stumbled to a 26-point, first-half deficit in Game 3 and suffered a well-deserved 109-103 loss to the still-proud, Heat Saturday night at the Garden.
On a night when both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum suffered injuries, went to the locker room, then made Drama King returns, Boston cut a 26 point lead all the way down to one point, 93-92, with 2:40 left, only to fall short. Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 40 points, but committed seven turnovers. Tatum shot 3 for 14 and had six turnovers in 40 uninspiring minutes. An energized Bam Adebayo scored 31 with 10 rebounds and 6 assists for the winners.
Perhaps we all got a little too giddy after the Celtics pummeled the Heat in Game 2. Perhaps the sloppy Celtics did the same thing.
“Obviously, they played well from the beginning,” Tatum said. “But six turnovers and no field goals in the second half, that’s unacceptable. I feel like I got to play better. I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight, and that’s on me . . . It’s a tough one.”
The Heat showed everybody that they’re worthy top seeds in this conference final. They are tough, mentally-tough, well-coached, and not to be mocked. They came into your gym, pantsed your team, and now lead the series, 2-1.
As ever, there was way too much attention focused on the officials. The Celtics spent all night complaining about the zebras and the raucous crowd joined in the wayward notion that the Heat only won because of the referees.
No. Your team came home and gave up 39 points in the first quarter. Your team got outscored 20-2 in the paint in the first. Your team shot 30 free throws to their 14. Your team was careless with the ball. Your team’s best player submitted a virtual no-show while their team won without having their best player (Jimmy Butler, right knee inflammation) for the second half. And it was your team that got slapped with a technical and a flagrant foul in the final minute after the outcome was decided.
“I did a [expletive] job taking care of the basketball,’’ admitted Brown, before adding, “They let a lot of stuff go tonight. I don’t make excuses. I got to do better.’’
But they let a lot of stuff go.
Stop crying about officials, Celtics. You are probably more talented than these guys. Go find some composure before Game 4. Ime Udoka and Al Horford no doubt know this to be true.
There was a lot of attrition in Game 3. The Celtics were without Rob Williams (knee) and lost Smart (ankle) and Tatum (shoulder) for short stretches, only to see them dramatically (always with these guys) return. The Heat brought back Kyle Lowry (hamstring), but suspiciously lost Butler for the entire second half.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game he had no updates on anybody.
The Celtics came out flat. And how is that possible in the conference finals when you are coming home after probably the most impressive game of the season?
After Boston won the opening tip, Tatum missed his first shot, and jogged back on defense. He was not yet past halfcourt when Max Strus drained a power play 3-pointer to set the tone for the night. Tatum was complaining to an official less than one minute into the game.
The entire first quarter was downright embarrassing for the locals. The Heat made its first six shots, played great defense, and led, 39-18 at the end of one. Fans booed.
A spirited Adebayo — held to 10 points in Game 2 — had 12 in the first six minutes. Tatum was shut out with only one rebound in the quarter and looked surprisingly passive.
Udoka looked angry.
Things didn’t get any better at the start of the second. A three pointer by Caleb Martin (No. 16 in your program), made it 46-20, triggered a Boston timeout, and generated a loud round of boos from a Saturday night home crowd that came to party.
A 10-0 run by the Celtics in the last 1:30 of the half cut the margin to a manageable 62-47.
Early in the third, Smart injured his ankle and went to the locker room. Five minutes later, Smart emerged from the tunnel to a Larry Bird-esque ovation. He quickly drained an impossible three to cut the margin to 72-62 with six minutes left in the third.
It was Tatum’s turn in the fourth With 5:18 left and the Celtics storming back, Tatum went down as if he’d been tasered. He left the court clutching his shoulder. But he returned less than two minutes later — getting a better ovation than Smart. We had everything but the Paul Pierce memorial wheelchair.
Brown cut it to 93-92 with 2:40 left, but the immortal Strus hit a jumper, and the Celtics went right back to turning the ball over.
Cedric Maxwell (Celtic retired No. 31) was among those who believed the Heat might be scarred from the Game 2 beatdown at FTX Arena.
“A spanking like that gonna leave a mark,’’ Max contended. “You don’t just walk away from that kind of a beating.’’
The Heat recovered nicely, thank you very much. The Celtics were the ones who looked damaged.
Much like Boston’s seven game grind with the Bucks, there has been no carryover thus far in this series. Game 4 is Monday night at the Garden and after what we saw in Game 3 there’s no way to know what to expect.