1. Well, that sucked.
The Boston Celtics had a chance to make it to the NBA Finals. They were at home. They didn’t get it done.
But all credit to the Miami Heat. They came out aggressively and they took this game. On the road no less.
Many are making the comparison to 2012, when the Heat came into Boston and LeBron James dominated to even up the series and send it back to Miami for a Game 7. It’s fair in the sense that a veteran Heat forward dominated on the road to keep his team alive.
Where that comparison falls short is on the Celtics side. That 2012 team was held together with duct tape, string and bubble game. The Big 3 were on their last legs, Rajon Rondo was hurt, and the Boston bench was bad.
These Celtics are better than those Celtics were. That 2012 group never really should have been there. They got there with veteran know-how, their championship pedigree and an overwhelming sense of pride.
This Celtics team should be here. Their time is now. It’s up to them to end the 2012 comparisons by winning a Game 7 in Miami, something those Celtics legends couldn’t do.
2. As we dive into the game, we have to start with Jimmy Butler. He was simply unguardable. He started off with 14 points in the first quarter, including hitting a couple of three-pointers. When those are going down, you have a sense it’s going to be a long night.
In the second quarter, Butler added seven more points and also did some playmaking.
He scored nine more points in the third quarter. But Butler missed a couple of jumpers and it looked like he might have been running out of steam.
In the fourth, Butler was best of all. He scored 17 points and seemingly made every big play the Heat needed.
It’s hard from the Celtics point-of-view to appreciate what Butler did, because it hurt so much. If you can step back and look at Butler’s night as just a basketball fan, you’ll come away amazed.
3. At halftime, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were dialed in. They just needed a little help from their friends, and it looked like Boston was headed to the Finals.
In the first half, Tatum and Brown each scored 18 points on a combined 12-of-18 shooting. They were great.
In the second half, Tatum and Brown combined for 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting.
The points stand out, but what really jumps off the page is the “7” in terms of field goal attempts.
Yes, they got to the free throw line eight times, but that’s only four more shooting possessions. Add those in, and you’ve only got 11 total possessions ending in a shot from the Jays.
11 total shooting possessions for the team’s two best players is unacceptable in a non-blowout. It’s great that other players stepped up, and that the Jays were making good reads. But your stars have to be more involved as scorers. They just have to be.
4. It’s Turnover Time! Again!
This time around, the turnover game was remarkably equal. Boston had 18, Miami had 19. The Heat scored 23 points off turnovers. The Celtics scored 22 points off turnovers.
But that’s an aberration for Miami. It’s become the rule for Boston.
It’s as simple as this: When the Celtics turn the ball over a lot, they lose. When they don’t, they win.
5. We’ll start this takeaway by recognizing Marcus Smart is playing through a sprained ankle that would probably keep most of us on the couch for a week. He’s clearly limited on both ends of the floor.
That said, this was a really rough game from Smart. He was just 4-of-15 from the floor, including 1-of-9 from behind the arc. In addition, Smart’s defense was sort of off all game too. He wasn’t able to stay in front of ballhandlers like he usually does. He’s the player Boston deploys on the hot offensive player to cool them down, but Smart had no answer for Jimmy Butler.
Bad games happen. The key is how you bounce back. Much like the team as a whole, Marcus Smart has proven to be incredibly resilient. The Celtics need him to find his game for Game 7.
6. This space doesn’t like to focus on officiating. It’s generally a waste of time, because both sides see the refs as favoring the other team.
In this game, the officiating was terrible. For both teams. Neither team could find any sort of rhythm, because the calls were so inconsistent. And it was the biggest game of the season for both teams too.
Put it this way: when the lead official has to stop the game and warn both teams to stop complaining, it probably means him and his crew aren’t having the best game themselves.
Officials are way too big of a story going into, during and after every big NBA game. It’s something the league has to figure out.
7. Moving on…
Derrick White was great! Like really, actually great. He scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, including 11 in the fourth quarter. When it looked like Boston was finished, White dragged them back in it with a series of drives and jumpers.
When White picked Kyle Lowry’s pocket with 2:36 to play, it felt like on of those all-time moments. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
But Derrick White deserves praise for being the Celtics best player in a big moment.
8. As we look towards Game 7, here’s the things Boston has to clean up:
· Turnovers: They can’t have 15 or more giveaways and expect to win. The Celtics have seen everything the Heat are going to do to force turnovers. They know what’s coming.
Mostly, for the love of all that is basketball holy, Boston has to stop throwing the ball directly to Miami players that are standing still. Four more times that happened in Game 6, after countless turnovers like that throughout the series.
· Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have to be great for 48 minutes: These are the Celtics stars. It’s time to show it. Both Tatum and Brown have had big quarters, halves and games. Now, at the biggest moment possible, they have to both be great for a full game. It’s in them. They just have to do it.
· Rebounding from the start: It’s taking Boston far too long to figure out their rebounding in some of these games. They need hit the glass from the tip to the buzzer.
· The other guys need to step up: If we believe that Tatum and Brown will be there, at least two or three other guys need to chip in. Derrick White and Robert Williams did this in Game 6. Boston needs that again, but alongside the stars playing well, not in place of it.
The role players don’t need to be stars. They just need to be stars in their role.
9. The hallmark of the 2022 Boston Celtics has been their resiliency. Whenever things have looked bad this year, this team has come back better.
Derrick White put it best: “We’re frustrated, but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be us.”
The Miami Heat aren’t going to give Boston anything. The Heat took Game 6. It’s up to the Celtics to bounce back and take Game 7. By any means necessary.
10. Game 7 is on Sunday, May 29 in Miami at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN.