Celtics vs. Heat: How Boston reverted to its worst habits in nightmarish third quarter during Game 1 loss

Inside the Boston Celtics, a legitimate championship contender, lives a bumbling, messy, and frankly stunned team. When the Struggle Celtics go out, they cut into traffic, force bad shots, fumble the ball, bite the fakes, make dumb fouls, and make the game much more complicated than it needs to be.

That version of the Celtics was on display too often during their 18-21 start, in which their offense ranked 22nd in the NBA. However, after that, and especially after the front office acquired Derrick White at the trade deadline, the Struggle Celtics have shown up only sporadically. For more than four months, Boston has been elite at both ends, and the team is in the Eastern Conference finals because, most of the time, it seems to have broken its bad habits.

Borrowing a term from his former boss in San Antonio, Celtics coach Ime Udoka always seems to have the appropriate fear that the Struggle Celtics will make an appearance. Before Game 1 against the Miami Heat on Tuesday, he spoke to the team about how the previous round began: After a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, they didn’t react well to defensive pressure from the comparatively big and tough. Milwaukee Bucks, losing the first game in a sea of ​​turnovers and misguided shots.

Boston started this round much more encouragingly. At halftime, he led 62-54, having scored 126.5 points per 100 possessions and racked up 42 points in the paint despite the absence of Al Horford, who is under league health and safety protocols, and Marcus Smart, who suffered a half. sprained foot in Game 7 against Milwaukee. Jayson Tatum was hitting almost every shot he took, Robert Williams III was finishing everything around the rim, and the Miami shooters weren’t missing out. It was much more like the Nets series than the Bucks series.

However, before the third quarter began, Udoka anticipated how the Heat would respond. “We talked about it at halftime: They’re going to build up the physique,” Udoka said. That’s exactly what happened, and Boston handled it in the best way possible. Miami started the second half on a 22-2 run and outscored the Celtics 39-14 in the third quarter en route to a 118-107 win.

Those 12 minutes were worse than any stretch of Game 1 against Milwaukee, worse than the disappointing Game 3, even worse than the fourth-quarter meltdown in Game 5. Tatum turned the ball over six times in the quarter, Brown twice and the team missed 13 of their 15 shots. At the other end, Jimmy Butler scored 17 points, single-handedly outscoring Boston.

“It changed very quickly,” Udoka said, after the 118-107 loss. “We just lost our composure. We won three quarters apart from that, but obviously that one is going to stand out. We semi-recovered in the fourth and we started to play well again and match his physicality, but… that’s hard to beat.”

Udoka called a timeout as soon as the Heat took the lead. Smart and Grant Williams urged the team to regroup, to avoid getting frustrated, to not allow the race to snowball. He shot himself anyway. The Celtics “kind of went back a quarter,” Udoka said, “and it cost us.”

“I think we just got away from what was working in the first half,” Tatum said.

In a 33-second span midway through the quarter, Tatum committed three straight live-ball turnovers, all of which led directly to the Heat’s buckets in transition.

“Throughout the playoffs, we’ve done a great job responding to runs after timeouts, things like that,” Tatum said. “But for some reason we didn’t do it today. And I’ll be the first to say I take the blame for that. I’ve got to lead better, I’ve got to play better, especially in those moments. And I just look forward to it.” to answer the next game.”

On separate occasions, Butler lifted Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith into the air with a fake shot and then fouled on the shot. Butler finished with 41 points, 17 of them at the free throw line. In the third quarter, he shot 9 of 10 from the line.

Brown described Boston as “out of it” in the third quarter and said the Celtics let the game slip away, adding they need to be “more balanced” and “more disciplined” when things don’t go their way.

“We were kind of standing there watching,” Brown said. “And that’s not what we do. We have to get in there, get into the mix, be more physical, match his physicality, match his intensity. And we didn’t.”

Udoka lamented that the Celtics had been drawing fouls, had “muscle in the post” and given the Heat opportunities for second-chance points. However, he mostly mentioned the same things he mentioned after the losses to the Bucks: speeding up, not doing simple reads, taking too long to get rid of the ball when help arrives.

“What we always preach is don’t play in a crowd,” he said. “You draw two or three [defenders], find your points of sale. And we did extremely well in the first half, finding guys for 3-point kicks and dunks at the basket.”

These are “simple cleanups,” he said. While Horford and Smart are veterans, Udoka said their absence was no excuse for mistakes. He didn’t use fatigue as an excuse either. The message, essentially, was that Boston collectively had temporarily lost its mind. If this is the case, all he needs to do in Game 2 on Thursday is stay sane.

Based on how Boston played for most of Monday’s game and for most of the season, Udoka is correct to frame it this way. However, the further into the playoffs he gets, the less he can afford these lapses, particularly if they’re going to last a full quarter. The Celtics have repeatedly shown that may run your offense against top-tier defenses carrying their stars. But that does not guarantee that they will continue to do so. As they compete for the title, they are also in a battle with themselves. If they really have overcome their worst tendencies, they will show it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.