The Miami Heat finished with the fifth-best record in the eastern conference during the regular season. Although they were not viewed as legitimate titile contenders, they have made some noise in the playoffs.
In fact, Miami successfully advanced through the first two rounds of the 2020 NBA playoffs with an 8-1 record. They swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Then the Miami Heat proceeded to knock off the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games.
Miami’s success continued into the conference finals matchup against the Boston Celtics as they took the first two games of the series. However, the Celtics got on the board in this series with a 117-106 win in Game 3. While the momentum is in Boston’s favor, here are some key adjustments for the Miami Heat as they prepare for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Miami Heat must contain Celtics’ success in the paint
One of the reasons why the Heat came up a bit short in Game 3 was the aggressive mindset of the Celtics. Instead of settling for outside shots, the Celtics made a concerted effort to take the ball to the rim. The result was a whopping 60-36 scoring edge in points in the paint. Simply put, if the Heat continue to allow the Celtics to attack the rim at will, it’s going to be another long day at the office.
Goran Dragic must get back on track for the Heat
To say that Goran Dragic has been playing well for the Miami Heat in the playoffs would be a huge understatement. He averaged 22.8 points per game in the opening-round series against the Indiana Pacers. He averaged 19.8 points per contest in the five-game set against the Bucks.
And in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, Dragic scored 29 and 25 points, respectively. He also shot 55.2 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range. But in Game 3, Miami’s veteran point guard produced just 11 points on 2-for-10 shooting from the floor and 1-for-5 from beyond the arc. In other words, the Heat must find a way to get Dragic going early and often.
Miami Heat must overcome slow starts
The Miami Heat have made it a habit of falling behind against the Celtics in this series. In Game 1, they trailed by 13 points early in the opening period. They also trailed by 14 points early in the fourth quarter before escaping with an overtime victory.
In Game 2, the Heat trailed by 17 points in the second quarter. But thanks to an impressive 59-41 outburst in the second half, Miami won Game 2 by a 106-101 margin.
This unfortunate trend continued into Game 3, as the Heat trailed by as many as 20 points. Although they did manage to trim the deficit to five points (109-104) late in the fourth quarter, Miami’s latest comeback attempt fell short.
The bad news is the Heat are not a team that can consistently overcome large deficits. The good news is if the Miami Heat can correct the aforementioned trends, not only will they win Game 4, but they will win the series as well.