NBA play-offs: Miami Heat move closer to finals with win over Boston Celtics
Miami Heat are within one win of the NBA finals after a comfortable 128-102 victory over the Boston Celtics in game three of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat lead 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. thanks to 29 points from point guard Gabe Vincent, and host game four on Tuesday (01:30 BST Wednesday).
The winners will face either the Denver Nuggets or the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nuggets are 3-0 up in the Western Conference finals with game four on Monday (01:30 BST Tuesday).
Vincent had six three-pointers while Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin added 22 and 18 respectively off the bench after veteran Kevin Love was forced out early in the game with an ankle injury.
Star forward Jimmy Butler had a relatively quiet night with 16 points as the Heat, who are aiming to become only the second eighth-seeded team to reach the finals, dominated at both ends of the floor.
They ended a fast-paced, physical first quarter with a 9-2 scoring run to lead 30-22 and pushed their advantage to 22 points in the second quarter.
Although Boston managed to cut the gap, they struggled from three-point range – Jayson Tatum made just one of his seven three-point attempts and Jaylen Brown missed all seven of his – and with turnovers, they trailed 61-46 at the break for their biggest half-time post-season deficit this year.
There was no way back for the Celtics after that with Miami taking a 93-63 lead into the fourth, the shell-shocked Celtics going more than three minutes in the third period without scoring.
“I don’t know if surprised is the word,” Vincent said about the one-sided result. “We played well tonight. We defended. We made shots. We forced them into turnovers.
“The next game, the mentality is to come out and compete at a high level, defend, try to make the right read every time offensively and just play good basketball.
“It’s the first to four games. We are not satisfied with three.”
Boston’s Brown said: “I don’t even know where to start. I feel like we let our fan base, organisation down, we let ourselves down, and it was collective. We could point fingers, but in reality, it was just embarrassing.”
No team in NBA history has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.