The Boston Celtics, a storied franchise in the NBA, have encountered a worrisome trend during the postseason. While they have shown resilience after losses, their performance in close late-game situations in Boston has been a cause for concern. This pattern became evident in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, where the Celtics found themselves trailing 0-2 in the series.
Hope Shattered by Another Collapse
Throughout significant portions of Game 2, the Celtics appeared to be in control and on track to even the series. However, their hopes were shattered by yet another collapse, presenting them with a daunting challenge. Celtics forward Grant Williams emphasized the critical decision the team now faces – whether to rise to the occasion and make a resounding statement or succumb to defeat.
Miami Heat’s Dominance in Late Moments
Led by the relentless Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat once again dismantled the Boston Celtics in the closing moments of the game. In Game 1, Miami stifled Boston’s offense in the fourth quarter, leaving Boston scoreless for over four minutes and forcing critical turnovers. Game 2 followed a similar script. After a dunk by Grant Williams with 3 minutes and 52 seconds remaining, Boston failed to convert another field goal, missing their final four shots and committing two turnovers. Defensive lapses, including a backcourt violation and potential turnovers by Jayson Tatum, further contributed to Boston’s downfall. The Heat seized these opportunities, ending the game with a devastating 24-9 run over the final 6 minutes and 37 seconds. Butler and Bam Adebayo played instrumental roles, with Butler contributing nine of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, and Adebayo displaying dominance with 22 points, 17 rebounds, and nine assists.
Identifying Discipline and Mindset as Key Factors
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla identified discipline and mindset as crucial factors behind the team’s struggles. He acknowledged that, at times during the game, the Celtics lacked the necessary discipline to overcome their opponents. This recurring theme of faltering in critical moments is not new for the Celtics, as they faced a similar situation in Game 7 of last year’s conference finals against the Heat, nearly squandering a double-digit lead late in the game. Such struggles have haunted the Celtics in various games over the past few seasons.
Insights from the Players
Players offered their insights into what went wrong. Jaylen Brown highlighted the need for composure and better decision-making, particularly when the pressure mounts. He acknowledged that the Celtics often become rushed in these situations, leading to the game slipping away from their grasp. Despite Jayson Tatum’s impressive 34-point performance, he acknowledged the team’s need to execute better. Tatum emphasized that turnovers and offensive rebounds, which result in momentum swings, have played a pivotal role in shifting the outcome of the game. He stressed the importance of making winning plays during critical moments, especially when the Celtics hold a double-digit lead.
Shooting Woes and Their Impact
Although there were promising moments throughout the game, including extended runs by the Celtics, their ability to convert shots effectively became a significant challenge. Shooting just 10-for-30 from beyond the arc, Boston’s 3-point shooting woes continued to haunt them. The Celtics heavily rely on their shooting percentages, as evidenced by their regular season and playoff record. They hold a 29-30 record when shooting under 40% from long range, whereas they boast an impressive 36-2 record when shooting 40% or better.
Resilience After Losses, but a Daunting Task Ahead
The Celtics have displayed resilience after losses in recent playoffs, holding an 11-4 record when playing following a loss. However, their current 0-2 deficit poses a significant challenge. To secure a spot in the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year, Boston needs to win four of the next five games, with three of those games taking place in Miami.
Determination and Confidence in the Face of Adversity
Despite the uphill battle they face, the Celtics remain determined and confident. Jaylen Brown emphasized the team’s ability to turn the tide and secure victories in the upcoming games. He called for a resilient mindset and unwavering confidence, highlighting that it is only the first team to win four games that will ultimately prevail. Brown expressed optimism that the Celtics can emerge victorious and rewrite the narrative in this fiercely contested series.