We’ll be offering live updates and analysis throughout Game 3 from Chad Finn, Nicole Yang, Conor Ryan, and Khari Thompson.
Celtics-Heat: Game 3 live updates
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Himmelsbach: Derrick White needs to start over Rob Williams in Game 3 — 6:55 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla helped swing the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the 76ers in Boston’s favor by putting center Robert Williams back in the starting lineup in Game 6 in place of Derrick White. Williams gave the Celtics another body to throw at league MVP Joel Embiid, and P.J. Tucker’s limitations allowed Williams to act more as a roamer on defense.
Mazzulla has stuck with the same group against the Heat in the conference finals, but it has not gone well. In 14 minutes together, the double-big pairing of Williams and Al Horford has been outscored by 51.6 points per 100 possessions. Yes, that’s an extremely small sample size, but the Heat simply pose different challenges.
Jimmy Butler has actively sought out matchups with Williams in space, and Horford has struggled to contain center Bam Adebayo. Mazzulla seemed to have some reluctance about the double-big group after Game 1. When he was asked about it, he paused for about two seconds before answering.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “Like I said, I thought each lineup presented things that did well.”
Then the Horford/Williams pairing returned at the start of Game 2 and lasted less than five minutes, as the Heat took a 4-point lead. The two never shared the court again.
White, an All-Defensive team selection, blocked two of Butler’s shots in Game 2 and continues to be a force from beyond the arc. He’s made 6 of 10 3-pointers in this series and the Celtics have a plus-9.0 rating with him on the court. Malcolm Brogdon is the only other Celtic with a positive rating in the series.
But White hasn’t played more than 23 minutes in any of the last four games. It’s time for him to reenter the starting lineup in Game 3.
Finn: It’s not over, but there’s not much reason to still have faith in the Celtics — 6:40 p.m.
By Chad Finn
Before tipoff of the Eastern Conference finals, ESPN Analytics tweeted that the Celtics had a 97 percent chance of defeating the Heat in the series.
Whatever their data-based rationale, giving the flawed but fearless Heat a 3 percent chance of prevailing over a Celtics team with a habit of drop-kicking prosperity seemed absurd and disrespectful at the time. Any roster with Jimmy Butler on it and Erik Spoelstra coaching it has more than a 3 percent chance of achieving just about anything.
Now? That projection feels like a punch line, a painful wallop-packing truth about the differences between what the Celtics could be and what they are. That punch line will sting the Celtics into the fast-approaching offseason if they don’t get their act together immediately.
Read Finn’s full column here.
Chad Finn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn. Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang. Khari Thompson can be reached at email@example.com. Conor Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Katie McInerney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.