Heat's red-hot 3-point shooting has pushed Celtics to brink of elimination

Why are Celtics trailing 0-3 to Heat? Look at Miami's 3-point shooting originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There are many reasons why the Boston Celtics are one loss away from being swept out of the Eastern Conference Finals by the Miami Heat, and many of them are of their own doing.

The Celtics have not executed well late in games during clutch situations. They have turned the ball over too often. They have not defended at a high level. They are not shooting well from 3-point range. The coaching of Joe Mazzulla, whether it's lineups or timeout usage, has not been good enough.

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But the No. 1 reason why the Celtics are on the brink of elimination is the Heat's red-hot shooting from beyond the arc.

The Heat are shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point land in this series. They are tied with the Denver Nuggets -- who have a 3-0 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals -- for No. 1 in 3-point shooting during the playoffs at 38.8 percent. Miami was the fourth-worst 3-point shooting team during the regular season at 34.4 percent.

Sure, there are things the Celtics are doing that have helped the Heat shoot such an insanely high percentage from beyond the arc. The C's aren't fighting over screens well enough, their shot contests have been below average, and some of their double teams have been poorly timed and have resulted in open shooters on the perimeter, among other issues.


But even if the Celtics didn't have these problems, it's still super tough to beat any opponent that is shooting almost 50 percent from 3-point range. Miami's role players are scorching hot from beyond the arc in this series.

"Our defense hasn't been especially what it was last year, but we've had tremendous strides in different directions, and we've been able to find ways to win basketball games. I don't think that was the issue here," Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said after Boston's Game 3 loss. "Yeah, we struggled to get stops, but to their credit, they're playing well above their means. They're balling right now. I've got to give them respect -- Gabe Vincent, Martin, Strus, Duncan Robinson, guys that we should be able to keep under control are playing their ass off."

Here's a look at how much better the Heat's shooters are converting from 3-point range in the playoffs compared to the regular season.

Gabe Vincent shot 26.8 percent on 3-pointers in Miami's six-game second-round series win over the New York Knicks. He's shooting 55.6 percent from 3-point territory against the Celtics. In Game 3, Vincent led all players with 29 points on 6-for-9 shooting from long distance.

Duncan Robinson shot 28.6 percent from 3-point range against the Knicks and he's at 53.3 percent in the conference finals. Caleb Martin is averaging 19.3 points per game against the Celtics with at least 15 points in each of the first three matchups. He scored 9.6 points per game in the regular season. Martin is shooting 47.6 percent from 3-point land on 21 attempts versus Boston.


Compare those numbers with Jayson Tatum and Brown's struggles from 3-point range and you have a recipe for disaster if you're the Celtics. Tatum has shot 5-for-20 and Brown has shot 2-for-20 on 3-point attempts in this series. This duo was a combined 1-for-14 in Game 3. The chances of the Celtics winning any game, let alone a whole series, when their two best players shoot that poorly from beyond the arc is almost non-existent.

Boston, as a team, is shooting just 29.2 percent on 3-point shots in the conference finals.

The Celtics built a roster that needs to shoot 3s at a high rate or their chances of winning go down dramatically. They don't really have a Plan B on offense. Combine that with their defense not being as good as it was last season, and now you're in trouble against a quality Heat team.

The Celtics are the classic "live by the 3, die by the 3" team, and they are on the verge of crashing out of the playoffs because they're shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range and the opponent is at almost 50 percent. That's the simplest explanation for what has unfolded in the conference finals.