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Not quite adversity, but now angst for Heat with East lead vs. Celtics reduced to 2-1

By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

The Miami Heat have witnessed ample adversity up close over the past month alone, from the Indiana Pacers firing their coach after being swept by the Heat in the first round, to the Milwaukee Bucks holding a summit with team leader Giannis Antetokounmpo after being ousted by the Heat in the second round, to the Boston Celtics turning their locker room into open conflict after falling behind 0-2 in these Eastern Conference finals.

And yet, in their own house, adversity has been little more than an abstract. The longest losing streak during the regular season was three games. The playoff record, even with Saturday night's 117-106 loss to the Celtics is still 10-2.

But for the first time in months, angst has entered the equation, not necessarily because of the lead in the best-of-seven series being reduced to 2-1, but because of the way they were punched in the face by a more desperate opponent Saturday night, including being pummeled 60-36 in paint points in Game 3.

Suddenly, playing with fire no longer means merely getting warmed up. After overcoming 14- and 17-point deficits in the series' first two games, there was no overcoming what would grow into a 20-point deficit Saturday, even with a spirited rally that closed the gap to five with 55.9 seconds to play.

"We didn't play hard enough," forward Jimmy Butler said, in what stands as the ultimate Heat self-indictment. "I think we didn't do anything that we said that we were going to do.

"We knew how they were going to attack us. We weren't helping each other. We weren't making an extra pass a lot of the times. We have to play basketball the way we have been playing the games that we have been winning. We understand that."

 

There now will be ample time for introspection, with the series not to resume until Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

"Now we really see what we're made of," Butler said. "They won a game. You can say that they have the momentum. Now it's up to us to come in and win the next one. We're definitely capable of it.

"We have a lot to fix and we've got to get back to playing basketball the way we know how."

After the Heat played in chase mode for a third consecutive game, center Bam Adebayo, who was personally dominant in Game 3, with 27 points and 16 rebounds, said enough is enough.

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