Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (2) drives to the basket during the second half of Game 3 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, May 21, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Vincent Leads Heat to Dominate Game 3 Win; Take 3-0 Series Lead

Miami guard Gabe Vincent brought down the ball in front of Boston forward Al Horford midway in the third quarter of Game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The crowd inside the Kaseya Center in Miami knew exactly what was bound to happen to the former Florida Gator.

Vincent knocked in a triple right in his face as Horford dropped in his defensive stand. There was nothing the Celtics could do, down 23 points with blood in the water. The bleeding continued as Vincent, on a career night, never lost focus on finishing the game and led his team through the lopsided victory.

“I think it’s important to know where my feet are and be as present as possible,” Vincent said.

The No. 8 seed Miami Heat defeated the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics in thrashing fashion toward a 128-102 victory Sunday night in Miami. The Heat now control a commanding 3-0 series lead in the series and are still undefeated at home in this year’s playoffs.

Vincent Shines

The two-punch combo of Vincent, who finished with a career-high 29 points, and Miami guard Duncan Robinson in the front court led the way for the Heat’s offense while the defense of Miami stifled any chance for the Celtics to regroup.

The game started out with Miami attacking the paint to jump to a 7-3 lead through the opening two minutes. However, Boston responded with a 4-0 run to knot the game at seven apiece. The game quickly became a heavyweight boxing match from there; both teams exchanging leads with momentum shifting back-and-forth.

Then came the air ball.

Celtics guard, and NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon air balled a pullup 3-pointer with under five minutes left in the first quarter. From that moment, the Heat outscored Boston 13-6  to take a 30-22 lead into the second. It was the closest the Celtics would come to the lead for the remainder of the game.

Boston struggled from the floor shooting against Miami’s high 2-3 zone and started to look to the 3-point line for salvation, but found nothing but nightmare. The Celtics finished the game with a 26.2% clip from behind the arc.

The Heat’s lead grew to double digits after a 3-pointer by Vincent with nine minutes left before the break. Despite the shot being followed by a Horford corner triple, the momentum was turning white hot toward Miami. The Heat went on a stretch deep into the quarter with Robinson facilitating the offense and center Bam Adebayo dominating the paint by dunks finished at the rim with force.

Heat Answer Every Boston Punch

Miami led against Boston 61-46 at halftime, but the Heat didn’t lose focus.

Boston started the second half on the right foot defensively. They forced Vincent to throw the ball away out of bounds trying to find a cutting Adebayo inside and then went on to the other side of the court, which resulted in Boston guard Marcus Smart drilling a contested jump shot while getting fouled. He would convert an and-1 try at the charity stripe.

However, no matter what the Celtics did, the Heat appeared to have an answer. While the Celtics All-Star players of guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum struggled to lift their team up on offense, Miami went on a 22-7 run midway through the third quarter.

Two Different Stories Beyond the Arc

Boston struggled to answer to the Heat’s 35 attempts from behind the arc throughout the game and it showed in the third quarter.  Vincent made two of his six triples in the contest in the quarter while the Celtics shot 1-14 from 3-point range in the quarter. Miami ended with a 54.3% clip from behind the arc.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said he thought Vincent’s impact in the game with pullup triples and his overall game was important for his ball club to come out with the win in game three.

“(Vincent’s) assertiveness, and aggressiveness and reading the game,” Spoelstra said. “I thought he had as much of an impact putting his fingerprints on the win in Game 2 as he did tonight.”

The Heat went on to take full custody of the game from that point on. At one point, Miami claimed a 33 point lead, its largest of the game, after two free throws by Miami forward Jimmy Butler with a little over four minutes left in the third.

The Heat’s leader in scoring finished through three quarters with 14 points, but it appeared enough as the Celtics strolled around the court like dead men walking and produced only 17 points in the quarter. Miami led 93-63 going into the fourth.

Celtics Quit in Fourth Quarter?

By the final quarter, Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla put in his bench players in the game early in the fourth. Even though the move did prove fruitful with the Celtics outscoring the Heat 39-35, it still wasn’t enough to salvage the game. Miami won and now has a chance at history to be the first No. 8 seed to make it to the NBA Finals since the New York Knicks in 1999.

“The Miami Heat are trying to compete for a title and this year is no different,” Vincent said.

The Heat will look to close out the series against Boston back in Miami at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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