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Gut check time for the Celtics

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The Heat have outhustled the Celtics so far.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I’m mad.

I don’t get mad at basketball games very easy. Disappointed, sure. Frustrated, of course. Sometimes it even impacts my mood all the next day. But mad? Not very often, especially watching this Celtics team. This isn’t the sort of thing that happens to this year’s team. These past two games are the kinds of games that happened to last year’s team.

I don’t know what was said or who said what in the locker room, but on some level I’m glad they showed some emotion after that loss. They should be frustrated. They should feel the need to release that energy. They sure didn’t use enough energy in the second half of either game.

The Celtics just finished a series against the defending champs where they had to scrape, claw, and fight for every win. They blew leads and chances in that series too, so you’d think they would have learned a lesson or two. Nope, right back to the same let-up (especially in the 3rd quarter).

This isn’t to take anything away from the Miami Heat, who are playing out of their minds right now. They have confidence shooting, they have a gamer star in Jimmy Butler, and they’ve found some things on defense that are working (like the zone). But the Celtics had a 17-point lead in this one and let it get away. That’s on Boston. No excuses. Full stop.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The only good news here is that it is just two games so far. There’s still time to turn this around. First they’ll need to do some deep soul searching. When the shouting and raging is over, you have to look yourself in the mirror and figure out what is going to push you to being a better version of you. These are the moments that teach you hard, painful, but ultimately productive things about yourself.

How this team responds will be the story of this postseason. Sure, they have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s fine. That’s better than not making it there. But as we all know, there’s no room in the rafters for that. If they bow out or blow any more leads, that’s the image that will be imprinted on everyone’s minds all offseason. Do you really want to go out like the Clippers just did?

Maybe Gordon Hayward will come back and help. Maybe Brad Stevens will discover a wrinkle that gives them an edge. But none of that is going to matter one bit if they don’t come out tomorrow and play with heart from tip to final buzzer. All four quarters. No let up. No relaxing. Full effort.

I don’t mind losing. Just don’t go down without giving it everything you have.