- Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) is a professor and an NBA analyst for ESPN.
Less than a week after Jayson Tatum’s 51-point Game 7 triumph thrust the Boston Celtics into the 2023 Eastern Conference finals, Boston’s season is suddenly on the brink.
Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat arrived in New England as massive underdogs earlier this week, but are headed back to South Florida with a stunning chance to win this series in four games. Entering the conference finals, the Heat had longer odds to win the NBA title (16-1) than they did when odds first opened last June (12-1), according to Caesars Sportsbook.
There’s a lot at stake for both the Heat and Celtics in Game 3.
Miami is looking to become the first No. 8 seed to make the NBA Finals since the New York Knicks in 1999. The Celtics, who were the title favorites just a few days ago, now must win on the road to save their season and stave off a shocking elimination.
Let’s explore four key factors that will determine the outcome of Sunday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Matchup between Tatum and Butler
Tatum’s Game 7 masterpiece just six days ago against the Philadelphia 76ers in the East semifinals was among the greatest individual playoff performances in recent NBA history. In a must-win game against reigning MVP Joel Embiid, Tatum looked like the best player on the planet. However, against Butler and Miami, that exact kind of clutch play from the 6-foot-8 forward has been invisible.
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