For the first time since January 21, the Boston Celtics have lost two games in a row. They fell to the Miami Heat at home on Wednesday night, 106-98. The loss punted the Celtics back into fourth place, as they now sit two full games out of first.
The night was dominated by technical fouls, complaints to the refs, and hard-nosed basketball. It’s hard to expect anything less when the Heat come to town.
Loss to Miami as a learning opportunity
With how much of a roll the Celtics had been on, the loss can also be seen as a good thing, a learning opportunity for the team as they get prepared for a playoff run. That’s how Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Ime Udoka framed it after the game.
“Just playing a good team,” said Tatum, “Another team that’s at the top of the East. Good, close game. Obviously, again, we would love to win, but it’s something we can learn from moving forward.”
But as much of a learning opportunity as the game was, Tatum made it clear that it was still a loss. “No moral victories. We lost,” Tatum stated. “You either win or you lose. But you always can learn from something. And, you know, the season was not decided today. We still got games to play. Playoffs. So, we’ll be better.”
Horford echoed Tatum’s sentiments. He discussed how, while the loss still hurts, it can be used to help prepare the C’s for the postseason. Miami is the top team in the East, and being in games like this will only help them improve.
“It’s good for our team to be in this position,” said Horford after the game. “And obviously, they’re a playoff team. This is just a great time for us to continue to find ways to get better. And we always obviously want to win. But I just think it’s good… For us, the key is going to be looking at this game tomorrow, seeing how we can improve and get better, and move on.”
And as Udoka gets ready for his first NBA playoffs as a head coach, he found the positives in the loss as well. He sees it as a message to his team that they can’t just waltz through the postseason like it’s nothing.
“Yeah, it was a message,” said Boston’s head coach. “I said to the guys, ‘every game is not gonna be easy. You’re not gonna win every game by 20 points. But keeping your composure when you miss some shots or get some non-calls, playing through that.’ And it’s a good test playoff-wise. This is what it’s gonna be like coming up in a few weeks here.”
Udoka was also quick to point out the areas in which Boston can improve. The Celtics only managed to tally 15 fourth-quarter points, as they lost their composure down the stretch, allowing Miami to pull ahead.
“Execution-wise, it could have been better,” Udoka stated. “That zone bothered us a little bit to start the fourth, so some things we can go back and look at. After coming off the 31-point third quarter, to only score 15 in that, although, we missed quite a few easy shots. Things to clean up and look at and good experience for us going forward, knowing every game is not going to be as easy as they’ve been lately.”
Celtics interactions with the referees
As much as the loss itself was a topic of discussion, so were the referees. For the majority of the night, Boston was complaining about one call or another. Jayson Tatum picked up a technical late in the second and Marcus Smart got thrown out of the game in one fell swoop at the end of the game. Tatum’s tech was his 13 of the season, and according to him, he’s very aware of it.
“That was my 13th tech of the season,” he said. “You know, I had 12 coming in, and I know if you get 16 you gotta sit out a game. So, I’m very aware. I do not want to have to sit out a game.”
Tatum expanded on the tech that he got, and in his eyes, he was just trying to ask a question. He also said that it’s very hard to stay relaxed with officials in the moment with the adrenaline pumping.
“Obviously, sometimes it’s an emotional game,” Tatum said. “You know, there are 20,000 people in there, it’s hard to whisper and be relaxed. You know, guys are passionate, we care about what’s going on. So obviously we can come off aggressive at times. And, you know, I’m aware of that, but that time I was genuinely asking him a question. I guess I asked too many times, but you know, I got a tech. It is what it is and just it’s just time to move on with it.”
Horford also commented on the matter, but not directly. The veteran was asked about Miami’s physicality, and while he said that it was a good experience for the C’s, he also threw in a slight jab at the refs and some calls they may have let go.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Horford stated. “You know, our guys, we probably haven’t faced anything like that in a while. And now we’ve seen it, you know, we know what it’s like. And, you know, moving forward, we just can’t get caught up in that. You know, usually, we’re the team that’s enforcing and doing things like that and I think we did at times. I just think that there was a lot of extra stuff, they just kind of let go. And, you know, we’ll make adjustments. I’m not worried about that.”
Meanwhile, Udoka was not happy with how much his guys were complaining. He said that the Celtics got too caught up in the officiating and lost focus of the task at hand, especially early on in the game.
“We were complaining a little bit too much,” Udoka pointed out. “Being down one as poorly as we played early and not playing our best basketball, we got caught up in that early in the game. Early, as well as some calls late that didn’t go our way, got caught up in that.”
That being said, Udoka did go up to the refs after the game to chat. When asked about what he said, he mentioned that he simply asked for more consistency, pointing out some calls that Miami got early in the game that Boston did not get later on.
“Just saying we’d love consistency,” said Udoka. “I mean, some calls that they made early in the game we didn’t get down that stretch, and you know, a lot of flopping that they fell for. Just mentioned some of those things, but like I said we have to play through it and we had our opportunities. Whether they call it or not we have to continue to drive and be aggressive and find outlets and force them to make a call, basically. Our guys, like I said, didn’t play well through it.”
The Celtics’ next game will be on Friday night when they take on the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden. Boston will be looking for revenge after the Pacers took them down in the teams’ last matchup. The game on Friday is set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Boston.