The Boston Celtics have just fallen down 3-1 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. With another close game coming down to the wire, the Celtics lost yet again by under five points. This is the third time in this series the team has lost with the game in reach.
Frustrating Team to Watch
Boston has been nothing but frustrating to watch. It seems since the Toronto series that went to a Game 7, that the team has yet to readjust. There has not been a game to which all of their primary scorers have been fluent throughout the game. Gordon Hayward has just been activated in the last two games and is showing some rust from his ankle injury. Hayward has been nothing but solid for the team. But for those who are not coming off an injury, have no excuses.
Heat Series Game 1
Game 1 was a tough loss. Going into overtime Miami pulled away with clutch shots from Goran Dragic. Kemba Walker was quiet throughout the game until the final minutes and overtime. This should not happen to the player that holds the ball the longest. Walker struggled against Toronto’s tight defense. Miami also boasts a very intense defense, but their best defenders are guarding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Walker for most of the game had a mixture of Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Dragic covering him. These players are not terrible defenders, but Walker should be able to create his own shot.
During this game, the Heat managed to punish the weakness of Walker: his defense. Again, just like in the Toronto series, players are forcing switches off screens to force Walker into an unfavorable matchup. Thus creating chaos to switch in time, which usually resulted in an open shot during a defensive switch or an easy bucket in the low post with Walker defending.
In Game 2 Tatum and Walker each had five turnovers. Marcus Smart also contributed with four turnovers. The team overall could not handle the ball, which is one of the big themes happening in this series. Protecting the ball is just an afterthought for this team. They are careless with their passes. The amount of cross-court passes being deflected or intercepted is incredible. Although, those passes are not the worst.
The worst pass is when one of the Celtics have an open shot or floater from five feet out and they pass it to the player next to them. In most situations, the player should take that shot, the worst-case scenario is that they miss. But instead, they pass the ball, very inaccurately to a player who is standing about five feet to their side. The pass is usually thrown at their feet, and instantly you can see a Heat player or two dive for the loose ball. What could have been a shot attempt, is now a turnover.
This game showed another big theme of the Celtics, not only in this series but their whole playoff run: blowing leads and playing sloppy with a lead. There were multiple times in this series that the Celtics had a double-digit lead and lost it. Games 1 and 2 are prime examples. They were up 13 in Game 1, they lost. They were up 17 in Game 2, they lost.
In Game 3 they had multiple leads above double digits. Every time they were up by double digits, the Heat took over the game. Celtics players started to pass more. Well, passing is not always bad. But when you pass up an open shot and then waste a possession, to which the opposing team scores on, it distinguishes a lead. Consistent overpassing and bad shot selection have diminished this team’s control of a lead. Seems almost like a fantasy to see a Celtics game go into the end of the fourth without it being a nail-biting game, even if they were up by 17 going into the quarter.
The most recent game was even more frustrating than the previous three. The Celtics looked tired, and it felt as though some of them did not want to be there in the first half. We can not assume that a star player will always play well every game, on any given night. Players have a bad game, but Tatum had a very bad half. Luckily for the Celtics, he was not useless. He was defending and passing the ball fairly well. Some mistakes occurred, sure, but overall he was not a menace on the court. Game 3 may have brought one of the worst halves of basketball played by a superstar, but his second-half performance really shined. Unlike others on the court.
Smart is not a great shooter, but his shot selection was disgusting to watch. Most of his threes were taken with more than ten seconds left on the shot clock. It looked as if he rushed the shot and heaved a prayer up to the basket. Smart also looked awful for small periods of time. He had back-to-back turnovers, did not switch on time defensively, and shot awfully. All of this in a matter of minutes.
Now, the biggest problem that any basketball fan can point out: the offensive rebound. Boston has not been known as a rebounding team for many years. However, when you start seeing players such as Butler and Herro getting offensive rebounds over Daniel Theis it becomes intoxicating. Theis is a great rebounder, but for some reason is never near the rim. Where does he go? He is always setting high picks for other players, and can never make it down to the basket. It seems like a waste of a big man to me at times. The Celtics have other players who can set screens, or at least set lower screens that will give the big man a chance.
With the series now 3-1, the Celtics need to tighten up their mistakes. The team needs to find a groove offensively, and it would be fantastic to watch every player have a good game as a unit. Boston’s season is now on the line, and hopefully, we should see some urgency and fight in their next appearance.
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Main Credit Image: https://www.businessinsider.com/brad-stevens-butler-assistant-to-nba-coach-2017-5