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Celtics, Heat agree: A 2-0 lead in East finals means nothing

Fri Sep 18 1:36pm ET
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer


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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra gestures as he watches play against the Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrates late in the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) celebrates after sinking a basket late in the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens instructs his team during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Miami Heat on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) If there was a sliver of consolation for the Boston Celtics on Friday, it probably could have been found within the understanding that a 2-0 lead for the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals doesn't guarantee anything.

The Celtics learned that two years ago against Cleveland.

And Milwaukee learned the same last season against Toronto.

Dropping the first two games of the East finals to the Heat, obviously, isn't the ideal scenario for the Celtics. But they've had chances to win both games - and might be getting Gordon Hayward back Saturday night for Game 3, when they'll have the opportunity to get right back into this series.

''I think this series is far from over,'' Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said.

Those aren't fighting words. The Heat agree with him.

''We haven't done anything. We haven't,'' All-NBA pick and Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. ''We can't get excited that we're up 2-0 because as good as it is to be 2-0, it could easily be 4-2 Boston. So, we're going to come into the same way knowing that we've got to be better and stay humble about it.''

The Celtics were up by 14 in the fourth quarter of Game 1, then were up by 17 in the first half of Game 2 and lost both games. Seeing a 17-point first-half lead get erased in the NBA is no big deal anymore; the wasted lead that truly bothered Boston was the five-point edge they had with 4:25 remaining. They got outscored 17-7 the rest of the way, and tempers flared in the Boston locker room after the game.

''We feel like we could have won,'' Brown said. ''Should have won, and we didn't. So just a lot of emotions flying around. That's it.''

The Heat got some great breaks in Game 2, plays like Kelly Olynyk banking in a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to help finish off a 37-17 Miami run - and Butler getting a steal and then whipping the ball behind his back as he saved it from going out of bounds in the fourth, a play where not only did the Heat maintain possession of his heave but where he wound up getting a layup.

But the comeback had important tactical elements as well, such as Miami going to zone defense and stifling the Celtics with that scheme. If Boston gets Hayward - who hasn't played in a month because of a bad ankle - back on Saturday, his shooting and passing ability will help when Miami tries the zone.

''This isn't about zones or defenses and offenses and stuff like that,'' Boston coach Brad Stevens said. ''This is, we just got to be better.''

Boston led Cleveland 2-0 in the 2018 East finals before losing in seven games; Milwaukee led Toronto 2-0 in the 2019 East finals before losing in six games. Momentum can change just that quickly in a series, and the Heat know that to be the case.

''You get to this level, in the conference finals, it's not going to be easy for either team - and it wasn't,'' said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who got his 81st postseason win Thursday to tie K.C. Jones for eighth on the all-time list. ''Both teams are laying it all on the line. That's the way it should be.''

Some of what else to know going into Saturday:

THE DRAGON

Goran Dragic, Miami's 34-year-old point guard, has led the Heat in scoring in each of the first two games, 29 points in Game 1 and 25 in Game 2. ''He's a winner, man. That's my guy,'' Butler said. The only other player this season, age 34 or older, to have multiple 25-point games against Boston was Toronto's Kyle Lowry - in the East semifinals.

FROM 3

Brown and Marcus Smart are a combined 13 for 27 from 3-point range in the two games for Boston; Celtics teammates Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum are a combined 9 for 34. Tatum knows he has to be more aggressive, after not taking any shots in the final 4:56 of Game 2. ''Not looking at we got to win four out of five ... just win the next one,'' Tatum said.

A HEAT FIRST

Miami is a franchise with three NBA championships and five trips to the NBA Finals, but has never had three separate 2-0 series leads in the same postseason -- until now. This is only the second time they've led 2-0 in eight trips to the East finals; they led Boston 2-0 in 2012.

CELTICS DEFENSE

Even after giving up 223 points in the first two games of the East finals, Boston still leads these NBA playoffs in points allowed per game (101.8; Miami is second at 104.4), opponent field-goal percentage (.413) and opponent 3-point percentage (.317). But after a 6-0 start to the postseason, the Celtics are only 2-5 since. That matches Boston's worst seven-game stretch from any point this season.

RECOVERY DAY

Both teams skipped practice Friday, opting for meetings, video sessions and optional workouts.

Player Notes
Goran Dragic Oct 11 7:00pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) was doubtful for Sunday's NBA Finals Game 6 against the Lakers, but intends to play and is listed as active. Playing with a plantar fascia tear seems like a bad idea, but Dragic reportedly has been told he won't reinjure himself by playing. Dragic won't be near 100 percent and will likely be on a minutes limit, so you shouldn't give him heavy consideration for your DFS lineups. Kendrick Nunn will likely see fewer minutes with Dragic playing, though there's also the possibility that Dragic tries to play and the pain is too much. It's a complicated situation in a must-win Game 6.

Goran Dragic Oct 11 12:30pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's Game 6 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Dragic has been listed as doubtful each game since suffering the injury in Game 1. It sounds like Dragic will test out his foot pregame, but it's highly unlikely that he suits up here. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn will gain the most fantasy value from the absence of Dragic. Herro is the better option between the two.

Anthony Davis Oct 11 12:30pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis (heel) is listed as probable for Sunday's Game 6 contest against the Miami Heat. However, Davis mentioned on Saturday that he'd be fine for Sunday's contest. He is fully expected to play through the issue and should see his normal workload. LeBron James (groin) and Danny Green (finger) are listed as probable as well, but are expected to take the court on Sunday. The Lakers are a little banged up, but will play through the pain.

Danny Green Oct 11 12:20pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (groin) and guard Danny Green (finger) are listed as probable for Sunday's Game 6 against the Miami Heat. Both players have been listed as probable throughout the series, but continue to play. Green was limited earlier in the series, but played 24 minutes during Game 5. James and Green are expected to see a full workload here.

Kevon Looney Oct 6 9:10pm ET

Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney is expected to have a bigger role on the team next season. Head coach Steve Kerr mentioned that Looney is looking at 20-25 minutes per game for the 2020-2021 campaign. That is a fairly significant increase, but won't make a huge impact on his fantasy value. Looney has been unable to stay healthy and isn't a great option in Golden State. He could have deep league value, but probably not worth a look in 12-team leagues on draft day.

Lauri Markkanen Oct 6 9:00pm ET

Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen is hopeful that he can prove the doubters wrong next season. "My expectations are even higher than ever now, just going back to my fourth year and performing at a high level," said Markkanen. Former head coach Jim Boylen failed to get much out of his young core during his time in Chicago. It sounds like Markkanen is already hitting it off with new head coach Billy Donovan. Markkanen has plenty of talent and should have a significant role on the team going forward. Fantasy owners could look at Markkanen as a sleeper player for next season.

Aron Baynes Oct 6 8:50pm ET

Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes could be headed elsewhere this offseason. The veteran was non-committal when asked about his future with the team. I loved my time in Phoenix, Baynes said. I knew what it was coming in here and I was able to go out there and take advantage of the role that was given to me throughout a number of different situations." Baynes will hit free agency after posting career highs in multiple categories. He could very well land a significant role on another organization. His fantasy value will be dependent on where he signs in free agency.

Goran Dragic Oct 6 8:40pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) won't suit up for Tuesday's Game 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. He tried to get up some shots pregame, but it was too painful. It doesn't look good for Dragic's chances of playing in this series, but consider him questionable for Game 5. Tyler Herro is expected to join the starting five, while Kendrick Nunn gets more minutes as well. Herro is the better fantasy option between the two.

Bam Adebayo Oct 6 8:40pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) is officially back in the starting five for Tuesday's Game 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. He has been sidelined since Game 1, so this is a big lift for Miami. It's unclear whether or not Adebayo will be limited, which makes him a risky DFS option. Kelly Olynyk will see his minutes and playing time decrease here. Meyers Leonard might fall out of the rotation completely.

Bam Adebayo Oct 6 5:40pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) is planning to make his return for Game 4 of the 2020 NBA Finals against the Lakers on Tuesday night, according to sources. Adebayo missed the previous two games of the series due to a neck strain that he suffered in Game 1, forcing the 23-year-old to exit during the second half of the contest. Adebayo's potential return to the lineup will be encouraging news for the Heat, who may be forced to play without guard Goran Dragic (foot) for the remainder of the series as he is without a timetable for a potential return. Adebayo will serve as a solid DFS option for Tuesday's game if he ends up making his return.

Danny Green Oct 3 8:10pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (hip) was limited during the Game 2 victory over the Miami Heat. He took a hard fall during the second quarter and appeared to have injured his hip. J.R. Smith saw a few minutes after Green checked out, but it doesn't sound like Green will miss time. However, Green was awful during Game 2, so fantasy owners should not expect a bounce back performance out of him.

Bam Adebayo Oct 3 8:10pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He was unable to play in Game 2 due to a neck sprain. Meyers Leonard drew the start, but only played nine minutes. Kelly Olynyk ended up benefiting the most by dropping 24 points in 37 minutes of play. He's looking like a solid DFS option, assuming Adebayo is sidelined again.

Goran Dragic Oct 3 8:10pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He suffered a left plantar fascia tear and the Heat are not optimistic that Dragic will be able to suit up. Tyler Herro should remain in the starting five, while Kendrick Nunn will see more minutes coming his way. Both players could be interesting DFS options without Dragic on the court.

Jimmy Butler Oct 2 6:30pm ET

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (ankle) will suit up for Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. He sprained his left ankle during the first half of Game 1 on Wednesday. It was going to take a lot to keep Butler off the court for this game. Sadly, they will be without Goran Dragic (foot) and Bam Adebayo (neck) on Friday. Butler is going to be asked to do just about everything on offense for Miami.

Bam Adebayo Oct 2 6:30pm ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (neck) has been ruled out for Friday's Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a huge blow to the Heat who are already without Goran Dragic (foot) for this game. Kelly Olynyk, Derrick Jones, and Meyers Leonard are expected to see more playing time on Friday. Jae Crowder could see more action as well, but it'll be hard to fill the void left by Adebayo. None of these players are great DFS options. Jimmy Butler is going to be asked to carry the load on offense.

Goran Dragic Oct 2 6:20pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) has been ruled out for Friday's Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He is still dealing with a foot issue that he suffered during the first game of the series. Kendrick Nunn is expected to join the starting five, while Tyler Herro gets more minutes as well. Both sound like appealing DFS options with the Heat roster banged up.

Goran Dragic Oct 1 12:10pm ET

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (foot) could be in danger of missing Game 2 versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. The veteran guard suffered a torn plantar fascia during the first half of Wednesday's contest. The team is going to continue to evaluate Dragic before deciding what to do. It sounds like his status for Friday's game is doubtful, but we'll wait and see. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn would see a boost in fantasy value, assuming Dragic is out.

Bam Adebayo Oct 1 11:50am ET

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) suffered an injury and was unable to return during Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. He was only able to play 21 minutes before suffering a left shoulder strain. The X-rays were negative, which is good news. However, the team might have Adebayo undergo an MRI as well. It's unclear if he'll be able to suit up for Game 2 on Friday. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard would likely gain significant fantasy value if Adebayo sits out.

Jimmy Butler Oct 1 11:40am ET

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (ankle) suffered an injury during the Game 1 matchup versus the Los Angeles Lakers. He sprained his left ankle during the first half of the game, but was able to play through the issue. Butler is currently listed as questionable for Game 2, but it would be shocking if he didn't play. There should be more updates on his status before the game on Friday. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Butler will be on the court for Game 2.

Jayson Tatum Oct 1 11:30am ET

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is reportedly looking to sign a max contract extension this offseason. Celtics team president Danny Ainge said that the organization is confident that they will come to terms on a contract. The two sides won't be able to talk right away due to league rules, but Ainge believes they will be able to lock up Tatum. The All-Star forward appears happy in Boston, so the two sides should be able to come to an agreement. Tatum is basically a lock for the first round in every fantasy format.