With apologies, your author is short on time while writing these Takeaways. So, no clips and just brief thoughts on the Top 10 reasons the Boston Celtics lost Game 2 to the Miami Heat. These are being presented in the order that I’d place the blame, but feel free to debate in the comments. There’s plenty of ordering, re-ordering, removing and replacing that can be done from this disastrous start to the Eastern Conference Finals.
1. Boston was out-executed, out-smarted and out-toughed all game long. Miami has been quicker to the ball and they truly do seem to want it more. But the Heat are also executing at a high level and the Celtics are not. And Erik Spoelstra, as was the fear, is coaching circles around Joe Mazzulla, while his veteran group runs his schemes on offense and defense to perfection.
2. The Celtics clutch offense was once again a disaster. In the final five minutes, Boston went 1-for-7 from the floor, with three turnovers.
For the fourth quarter as a whole, the Celtics shot 7-of-18 with four turnovers.
A complete and utter mess during crunch time. Again.
3. Jaylen Brown had a disaster of a game. He shot just 7-of-23 and never really found any kind of rhythm. Even worse, Brown was forcing shots, as he seemingly attempted to try and spark himself.
Brown was also a mess on defense. One four different occasions, Brown was on a completely different page from his teammates. At one point, both Marcus Smart and Al Horford were letting him have it after Caleb Martin got a wide-open three. Brown also lost cutters for open shots inside, as well as committed some bad fouls because he was late.
This was arguably the worst playoff game, given the stakes, that Brown has ever played.
4. Joe Mazzulla chose to close with Al Horford and Marcus Smart in a game where they were a combined 3-of-10 from the floor, including 1-of-6 from behind the arc.
Following the game, Mazzulla indicated that those are his guys. And that’s fair. Most coaches will give their veterans a very long leash and will stick with them.
But Rob Williams, after a rough start, was having a great game on both ends of the floor. And Derrick White had also played great. Those two should have closed the game, with Horford and Smart on the bench.
5. Miami spent almost the entire fourth quarter playing a matchup zone defense. It appeared to be a 3-2 floating zone, that effectively functioned like a 4-1 zone. Bam Adebayo stayed back at the time, while the other four Heat defenders pressed out to the arc and beyond. When the ball went to one side, the opposite side defender would pinch up to the nail.
It was extremely well-executed, and Boston never really solved it to get good looks. Instead of being patient, working the ball to the wing and corner, Boston continually tried to drive the ball right through the middle. Those forces caused turnovers and rushed, late-clock shots.
6. Boston’s off-ball defense was very bad all game long. We already called out Jaylen Brown, but he was hardly the only culprit. Derrick White lost Duncan Robinson three teams on cuts for layups, Robinson made two of them and once he fumbled the pass away.
Max Strus is very good about changing his cutting angle. He was able to shake free quite often when Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon, and occasionally Brown or White, tried to cheat and take a shortcut to where they thought Strus was going.
And repeatedly, Al Horford and Rob Williams would get too sucked in on help defense and lose Bam Adebayo slipping in behind them for easy shots at the rim.
It was one of the messier defensive performances we’ve seen from Boston. This wasn’t one of the no-effort no-shows that is easy to spot. The effort was fine from the Celtics. This was more subtle but screamed a lack of focus and execution.
7. The Heat grabbed 11 offensive rebounds. This included some big ones late in the game. Once again, Boston failed to finish possessions with stops. It’s been a season-long problem and reared its ugly head once again.
8. Turnovers were also an issue again. Boston had 15 of them, many unforced. Nine of the 15 were live-ball, which led to some easy transition hoops for Miami.
9. Yes, we have Grant Williams going head-to-head with Jimmy Butler (literally) this low on the list. Should Williams have poked the bear? Probably not. But Butler went 3-of-6 with a turnover after that happened.
Butler is probably doing that no matter what in the fourth quarter. That’s actually kind of ho-hum for him down the stretch. It’s not like he turned into prime Michael Jordan and scored 20 points over the final six minutes of the game. He did what he does in the clutch.
Also, at least Williams was showing some fight. He was willing to scrap and to get into it. That’s a lot more than could be said for most of his Celtics teammates in Game 2.
10. Jayson Tatum had another pedestrian fourth quarter. He only took three shots from the floor and missed all of them. He also had two turnovers.
Tatum also had three assists, as Miami loaded an extra defender to him in that matchup zone they were sitting in. So, he wasn’t entirely uninvolved.
Yes, Tatum needs to be better. He needs to figure out a way to get shots, but that has to come with help from his teammates and his coach.
And, let’s not overlook that he had 34 total points, to go along with 13 rebounds and five assists. The fourth quarter could, and should, have been better, but Jayson Tatum was very far down on the list of reasons the Celtics lost Game 2.
Well…this is it. Game 3 is the season. There’s no coming back from down 0-3. This isn’t baseball where momentum is as good as the next starting pitcher. It’s not hockey where a goalie can get hot. You might win a game, or even two games, but you aren’t winning a series after falling behind 0-3.
Per Celtics radio play-by-play man Sean Grande, nine teams have fallen behind 0-2 in a playoff series and come back to still in the NBA title. Only once did one of those teams fall behind 0-2 with both losses coming at home.
So, the Celtics will need to make some history here. It all starts with Game 3 in Miami on Sunday night.