1. There’s something about Boston Celtics and Miami Heat games. Since LeBron James went to Miami in 2010, they’ve been a consistent thorn in Boston’s side. The two have waged countless great regular season games, and some incredible playoff series.
This game was another prime example. After the Celtics handled the Heat in the first game of the two-game mini-series, you knew the second one wouldn’t be easy. Miami wants to muck up the game and make it a messy rock fight. Boston played right into their hands, for the most part. The shooting/scoring was better than some of the 90-89 types of games we’ve seen between these two, but the game was messy.
The Heat play with active hands and they’re extremely physical. That led to Miami forcing 20 turnovers from Boston. Well… “forcing” might be more apt. The Celtics had at least eight unforced turnovers there they either threw the ball away without pressure or simply lost it. Still, 20 is a huge number. If you could remove the games vs the Heat, Boston would lead the NBA with under 13 turnovers per game.
The Celtics also got an uncharacteristically bad game from Jayson Tatum. It wasn’t just that Tatum shot poorly, but his decision-making wasn’t good either. We’ll cover one play that stood out later.
Lastly, Boston missed seven free throws. That’s unlike the Celtics, who lead the NBA in free throw percentage this season.
And, yet, despite all of that, it took overtime for Boston to lose their fifth game, and just their second home game. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest plays in a tough loss.
2. In the third quarter, the Celtics built a 13-point lead. Miami chipped away, but when Sam Hauser hit a driving layup early in the fourth, Boston was still up by eight points.
The Heat then hit the Celtics with a 13-0 run over the ensuing two-and-a-half minutes. This drive by Marcus Smart, after a timeout, finally snapped that Miami run:
3. Boston did a pretty good job of finding Tyler Herro late in the game. They attacked him enough that Erik Spoelstra had to go offense-defense and take Herro off the floor on several late possessions. Jaylen Brown had particular success bullying by Herro like he does here:
4. This play woke the crowd back up and got them rocking. Instead of popping out to attack Tyler Herro one-on-one, Jayson Tatum slipped this screen. Marcus Smart delivered a nice pass for the loud finish:
5. Grant Williams made some monster plays down the stretch of regulation. This play starts with good ball movement and action on the left side of the floor. Williams doesn’t stay rooted to the opposite corner though. As soon as Al Horford drives out of the left corner, Williams back cuts Kyle Lowry from the right corner. Good pass by Horford to reward Williams for the smart cut:
Williams’ confidence in his shot is off the charts this season, and deservedly so. This is a nice kickout pass by Marcus Smart. Williams then hits Miami with the pass-fake and side-steps into a triple:
6. After trading a couple of hoops and a big Jimmy Butler shot (we’ll come back to him again later), the Celtics were in desperation mode. Jaylen Brown, as he did all night, delivered the heroics:
7. At the start of overtime, Marcus Smart taketh away from the Heat with this ridiculous steal:
And then a mere 15 seconds later, Marcus Smart giveth back with this shot that wasn’t good at all:
What made that not a good shot? Smart was limping after the steal. He didn’t really have the legs to get into that jumper. We love and trust Smart. Him taking a wide-open jumper is almost always fine. In that spot, given he was hurting, Smart could have found a better play.
8. Boston only scored six points in overtime, including hitting just two shots. Jayson Tatum had a putback and Jaylen Brown knocked this one down. Brown’s legs had to be jelly by this point, but he’s still money with the pullup jumper:
9. In the end, Jimmy Butler made plays and Jayson Tatum didn’t. It’s not really that simple, of course. It never is. Basketball is a 48-minute, or in this case 53-minute, game. But sometimes there’s a sequence where one guy gets it done and the other guy doesn’t.
Playing drop coverage on a Butler-Bam Adebayo pick-and-roll isn’t the worst idea. You just can’t get too deep in the drop. Al Horford gets about two steps too low here and Butler knocks down the pullup to give Miami the lead:
After Jaylen Brown and Bam Adebayo traded free throws, the Celtics were trying to go 2-for-1 here. That strategy worked to end regulation, but for it to work again the first part of the 2-for-1 equation has to feature a good shot. This take from Tatum was a bit rushed. It was almost like Tatum didn’t expect to find himself quite this open and hurried his release:
After getting a little messy following the rebound, Erik Spoelstra called timeout to set a play for Miami. The whole gym knew Butler was going to get the ball. Horford is all over him on the switch. This is just one guy making a shot where the other guy didn’t:
10. Only one team this season has won both sides of one of these mini-series. A split is very common since they became a things two seasons ago. Unless it’s a severe mismatch, it’s hard to be a team twice in a row. Playoff series often show us the exact same thing.
It’s not great that Boston has had a little trouble closing games, as three of their losses have come in overtime this year. But it is pretty great that the Celtics are 18-5 and it took overtime for three of those losses to happen.
Unless this loss spirals into a losing streak, it’s not a big deal. Jimmy Butler made some shots, Jayson Tatum didn’t. Tatum, Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White combined to shoot 10-of-33 from the field. That’s not going to happen very often. Nor are the Celtics going to miss seven free throws. And the turnover issues, minus games against the Heat, seem to be cleaned up.
So, it’s a loss. A tough loss even. But everything is fine. The Celtics still have the best record in the NBA and are still up two games in the Eastern Conference.
However, it is important that Boston puts this one behind them and quickly. They now start a two-week, six-game road trip. It starts out on the east coast with a game at the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
This trip will tell us a lot about who the Celtics are. Are they a good team that had a great start to the season? Or are the Celtics a great team? Six games against potential playoff teams, all on the road, may give us the answer to that question.