Ever since the beginning of their series with the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics have struggled mightily in the third quarter.
And in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday, the C’s play out of the break cratered to its largest extent this season.
For the eighth time in their last nine games, the Celtics were outscored in the third quarter as the Miami Heat put on a dominant display in the stanza that completely overwhelmed the Celtics.
The Heat outscored the Celtics, 37-17, in the third quarter and that drastic no-show from Boston in the frame cost them dearly as it was the only quarter they lost in the game.
“They outplayed us,” said Kemba Walker of another atrocious third-quarter showing. “It’s really unacceptable on our behalves. It was just a really bad quarter for us. We didn’t continue to do the things that we did to get us that lead. I think we got kind of comfortable. Those guys took great advantage of it. They played hard. They played really hard. They played a lot harder than us. They wanted it.”
That was the worst Celtics quarter of the season. Besides the -20 scoring difference being the worst of the year per @Sportradar, it came due to terrible interior defense on Bam rolls and giving up tons of offensive rebounds.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) September 18, 2020
While the Celtics failed to execute on both ends of the floor coming out of halftime, it was their lack of effort that was most alarming as the Heat sprinted back from a double-digit deficit. Many members of the Celtics watched as the Heat grabbed offensive rebounds in from of them and the Heat also outhustled the Celtics to loose balls.
The Celtics looked dysfunctional offensively, too, unable to generate consistent offense when the Heat went into a 2-3 zone. And defensively, the Celtics fell apart after holding the Heat to 19 second-quarter points.
Miami utilized the pick-and-roll to tear into the interior of Boston’s defense and repeatedly got easy buckets. Bam Adebayo did most of the damage coming off of screen-and-rolls as at one point in the third quarter he had three dunks in a matter of minutes.
KEEP FIGHTING— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 18, 2020
“We pulled apart and we didn’t play well and they did a good job,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “We’re not beating this team if we’re not completely connected on both ends of the court. We got to get back to being that, which we’ve been at times. But right now, they’re a better team and we’re going to have to fight to get back into this series.”
The third quarter was like having a nightmare reoccur for the Celtics. Outworked, outplayed, outscored. Again.
It’s vastly different than how they have played in the first half in both games to start this series and that contrast in play jumps off the court. The abysmal performance in the third quarter ultimately led to Boston’s downfall in Game 2. Even if they just played average in that quarter, the Celtics probably come out on the winning end. But they couldn’t even manage to do that and they fell into a 2-0 series hole.
But it is fixable. It’s just 12 minutes of basketball that needs to be altered for the Celtics to get close to putting a full game together and giving themselves the best chance of winning.
“We just haven’t played a full 48 minutes of being locked in and executing the game plan,” Jaylen Brown said. “Feel like (we’ve done) maybe 75 percent. We play really well and it’s always one quarter or one sequence of events where we have lapses. Against this team we can’t have those. We take that away, we’ll win.”