By Sean Golonka
BU News Service
BOSTON — After a rare three-day break between playoff games, the Boston Celtics will seek to win a pivotal Game 4 on Wednesday night to even their series against the Miami Heat at two games apiece.
The long break results from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals moving from Monday to Wednesday because of an ESPN scheduling conflict. ESPN owns the television rights to both the NBA Eastern Conference Finals and the NFL’s Monday Night Football. With the pandemic pushing the NBA season into September, this is the first time ESPN has faced a scheduling problem like this.
To avoid an early start on Monday or to make sports fans pick between basketball and football, the NBA pushed Game 4 of the Celtics-Heat series to Wednesday night.
Before the delay between Games 3 and 4 of the series, the Celtics and Heat had been playing every other day since September 15. Aside from the breaks between different playoff series, each team played every other day in the previous two rounds of the playoffs.
After an unusually long break, the Celtics will face the challenge of maintaining the rhythm they found in Game 3.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart believes that the break between Games 3 and 4 will help the Celtics.
“The longer we sit here knowing we’re down 2-1, it adds fuel to the fire,” said Smart during a press conference on Monday.
Smart also called the break between games a “blessing” that would give the Celtics a chance to “reheal and rejuvenate” their bodies before Game 4.
Avid Miami Heat fan and longtime NBA viewer Matteo Venieri thinks the break will also benefit the Heat. Venieri said it gives the Heat “more time to make adjustments” for Game 4.
After a trio of intense games in which the Heat won two games after coming back from down double digits, Venieri was also happy about the long break as a fan.
“It’s also good for me because I get more time to rest and breathe and not have heart attacks every other day,” Venieri said.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was a bit less excited about the extended time between games as well as the fact that there are only four teams left at the NBA’s Orlando campus.
“In a lot of ways, this place feels empty. It feels like a lot less people. The four-day break feels a little eerie, to be honest,” Stevens said.
The extra rest is particularly beneficial for Celtics’ forward Gordon Hayward, who started 52 games for the team in the regular season. Hayward returned to the action for Game 3 against the Heat after missing the Celtics’ 12 previous playoff games with an ankle injury.
On the topic of Hayward’s return, Smart commented, “Gordon is great and brings a lot to our team. Even if the stats aren’t there, he has a great impact.”
With the break giving Hayward plenty of rest, the Celtics will hope to stay undefeated in his return, starting with Game 4 against the Heat on Wednesday night.