The Heat have a ‘FUCK YOU’ culture
And if you don’t get it …
BY DAVID THORPE
Reeling from losing two straight home games to the eighth-seeded Heat, the Celtics were facing dire circumstances. No NBA team has ever recovered from three games down to win a series. Last year’s NBA Finals appearance, the 18-4 start to this season, the incredible Game 6 win in Philly that led to a Jayson Tatum explosion to earn yet another ECF—all of it was minutes away from vanishing. And in Game 3 they trailed by 15 at the half.
As I watched the game together with an NBA coach, we both thought: The first five minutes are everything. If the Celtics could tighten this game up early in the second half, we believed, the Heat would feel the pressure of trying to put away a superior team. Everyone who studied the Heat this season also knows many of their losses had stemmed from poor shooting. Could this be a series after all? If the Celtics came out hitting in the second half, maybe so; it had to happen quickly.
The Heat turned the ball over on their first possession, but Jaylen Brown missed what would have been a momentum-changing 3. Caleb Martin and Bam Adebayo squeezed Marcus Smart for the defensive rebound; opportunity missed. Then Smart wrestled the ball free and quickly converted a shot in front of the rim for an and-one. My coaching friend and I felt something. Smart’s was the kind of play that energizes a team, especially one in desperate need of a defibrillator. Now down 12, if the Celtics could string together just a few stops and scores, this game—this series—would be on.
It took just 149 seconds—it takes me longer to make a cup of tea—for this Heat team to end the series by pushing their lead to 24 points. Nine game minutes later, the Celtics’ celebrated pair, Brown and Tatum—considered the top wing duo in the league, each a former top-three pick, and this season both All-NBA—were shut down for good.
Who carried the Heat for those devastating 149 seconds? None other than the undrafted Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Caleb Martin, who combined for eight points in that 13-2 run. In need of one more splashy play to extinguish Celtic hopes, Vincent hit a quick 3 in transition, making an insurmountable 74-51 margin.
Vincent’s dagger 3 was a resounding FUCK YOU directed not just to the Celtics but to us all. The Heat do things differently, and it’s high time we recognize what they’re doing.