Celtics v Heat: Boston finds key to unlock season-saving Game 4-winning 3-point shot

If it seems like all people talk about these days is the 3-point shot, it’s for good reason. We’ve seen games, playoff series, and championships where the team catches fire from behind the arc, and that will only be more true in the future now that kicking is more prevalent than ever. The 2023 Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was a perfect example.

During the regular season, the Celtics were a 3-point machine, making 37.7% of their 42.6 attempts per game. The Heat, meanwhile, won just 34.4% of their 34.8 attempts.

You would never have guessed watching the first three games, when the Heat jumped out to an impressive 3-0 lead, largely because of some red-hot outside kicks. In games 1-3, the Heat were 44-of-92, while the Celtics were 31-of-106. That 39-point differential from the 3-point line matched the Heat’s overall point differential for the series.

That all changed in Tuesday’s Game 4, when the Celtics put up their best 3-pointer ever and kept their season alive with a 116-99 victory. Boston hit 18 3-pointers on 45 attempts, while the Heat hit just eight of their 32 attempts. The big question, then, is how? How the Celtics unlocked the Heat’s defense and finally got back to their usual ways.

It all started with painting.

While we saw the Celtics succeed in scoring in this game, especially in Game 1 when they shot 31-for-47 en route to 62 points in the paint, this was the first time they were able to fully optimize their drive. -and-kick game. The “ball was popping,” as Jayson Tatum put it during his postgame press conference.

Here’s a look — game-by-game and then the series as a whole — at the Celtics’ 3-point attempts when they get a paint touch before the kick and when they don’t get a paint touch first. (Stats do not include Game 3 waste time.)

Game 1



Game 2



Game 3



Game 4



complete series

18-46 (39.1%)

26-90 (28.9%)

The ball going into the paint doesn’t guarantee a good look, just as the ball not going in first doesn’t inherently mean it was a bad play. However, as you can see, the difference in Celtics shooting performance between the two scenarios is staggering.

Going into Game 4, they took just 28 total 3s after putting the ball in the ink; they made 18 of those attempts on Tuesday and hit 44.4% of them.

That mentality was clear from the opening possession when Tatum got the ball at the top of the key and made an immediate, hard tackle for the paint, lured all five Heat defenders towards him and shot past Al Horford for a catch and opportunity. shooting.

“It was good [to see a shot go down]’ said Horford, who shot 3-for-13 from downtown in his first three games. “The most important thing is the movement of the ball. You see our game tonight, the ball wasn’t catching and I feel like we’ve found what it takes to be the best version of ourselves.”

When the Celtics kicked off their 18-0 third quarter comeback that put them ahead for good, they hit a bunch of those 3s. First, there was a clean look for Tatum, which helped get him in the mood for the rest of the game. (It’s also worth noting that this look came in the semitransition and after a miss. That the Celtics’ best 3-pointer and the series’ best defensive performances coincided with each other was no coincidence; it’s much easier to get in the paint and do the same. Heat shuffle when they can’t set their defense.)

On the latter, an open Derrick White effort from the corner that started with a shot by Marcus Smart, commentator Stan Van Gundy was raving about the movement of the ball.

There is always a “make it or miss it league” element to outfield shooting, and the Celtics made more shots than the Heat in Game 4. But they turned the 3-point battle around and saved the season because they tried to hit. They will need to maintain this approach the rest of the way if they are to make history and pull off a miracle comeback.

“We trust each other, we believe in each other over and over again,” Smart said. “Even when we were down, we continually believed in each other, and that’s what we have to keep doing. No matter what happens, we have to keep playing the right way, keep believing in each other and let the chips fall where they can.”

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