CELTICS SMELL BLOOD

An­gry Bos­ton seeks equal­izer He’s the guy who keeps us go­ing and keeps us in­spired, keeps us be­ing com­pet­i­tive

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - FRONT PAGE -

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — Get­ting an­gry worked won­ders for the Bos­ton Celtics.

Their first win in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals just hap­pened to come two nights af­ter Mar­cus Smart sparked a loud and emo­tional se­ries of shout­ing matches in­side the Celtics’ locker room, all of that start­ing only a few sec­onds af­ter the Mi­ami Heat won to take a 2-0 lead in the se­ries.

That lead is down to 2-1 now, the Celtics play­ing bril­liantly in Game 3 and lead­ing wire-to-wire to take a bunch of new­found mo­men­tum into Game 4 of the se­ries on Wed­nes­day night.

“I’ve al­ways been say­ing that be­fore you see the rain­bow, it has to storm,” Smart said Mon­day, speak­ing about the post-Game 2 dustup for the first time pub­licly.

“For us, that was a storm that we had to go through. We found our happy place.”

It’s now Mi­ami’s turn to find a happy place — though an un­happy place would seem more ap­pro­pri­ate.

The Heat never led in Game 3, got them­selves into a dou­ble-digit hole for the third con­sec­u­tive game in this se­ries and fourth straight over­all, and be­cause of a sched­ul­ing quirk now get to sit around and stew for three full off days be­fore get­ting a chance to atone for what went wrong Satur­day.

“Look, there are two teams com­pet­ing against each other,” Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra said.

“So as much as you want to say, ‘hey, it’s just about us and we just have to do X, Y and Z,’ the Bos­ton Celtics have some­thing to say about that. Like­wise, when they’re do­ing what­ever they’re try­ing to do, we have some­thing to say about that.”

The Celtics’ anger was no secret and was dis­played at least some­what pub­licly: Re­porters near their locker room heard the com­mo­tion af­ter Game 2, with Smart be­ing the one who lit the fuse.

“He’s the guy who keeps us go­ing and keeps us in­spired, keeps us be­ing com­pet­i­tive,” Bos­ton’s Grant Wil­liams said.

“You just have to fol­low his lead and trust that we have a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of great things. He’s just go­ing to com­pete his butt off and we fol­low that stan­dard.”

I’ve al­ways been say­ing that be­fore you see the rain­bow, it has to storm.

The Heat didn’t have a vis­i­ble — or au­di­ble — blowup af­ter Game 3, took Sun­day off to rest phys­i­cally and men­tally, then got back to work Mon­day with a film ses­sion, on-court work and then more meet­ings set for the evening.

“Our spirit is right, our head is right, our en­ergy is there, so I think we’re re­spond­ing the right way,” Mi­ami wing Jae Crow­der said.

“We’re just try­ing to get bet­ter and try­ing to see how we can play a com­plete game, play a com­plete 48-minute game and be as sharp as we can be on both ends of the court. With that be­ing said,

I think we took the loss, we took the ad­ver­sity in a good way. And we’re still tak­ing it in.”

Some of the num­bers posted so far in the East fi­nals are more than a lit­tle over­whelm­ing.

They’re also si­mul­ta­ne­ously puz­zling, at least from the Celtics’ per­spec­tive.

There have been 17 in­stances of some­one scor­ing to give his team a dou­ble-digit lead at some point in the first three games of the se­ries; all 17 of those have been done by the Celtics.

The Celtics have yet to trail by more than eight, have led by as much as 20 and have been in front for 75 per­cent of the first 149 min­utes played in this matchup.

But it’s Mi­ami still lead­ing the se­ries, which is why the Celtics are seek­ing to show up for Game 4 with the same ag­gres­sion that car­ried them in Game 3.

“I think each game is its own en­tity, so it is what it is. We’re all on the same sched­ule,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

“We know we’re go­ing to have to play the best game that we’ve played in Game

4 of this se­ries to have a chance to win. That’s just the way se­ries work. That’s the way the play­offs work. You have to get bet­ter every game.”

MICHAEL REAVES/ GETTY IMAGES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MAR­CUS Smart lights a fire un­der the Bos­ton Celtics in Game 3.

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