The Celtics lost the first three games against Miami, and despite their wins through the next three, the fourth was nearly impossible. No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit. In fact, across the three of the four North American Sports Leagues (NHL, NBA, MLB), only five teams have succeeded in the comeback. The hope in Celtics fans eyes wasn’t enough to power their team to victory.
However, the Celtics didn’t magically fall to 0-3 through the first three games. Mistake after mistake, turnover after turnover, the Celtics dug this hole for themselves. Here’s how the Celtics shot themselves in the foot (and lost to the Miami Heat).
Jayson Tatum, a usual scapegoat for Celtics’ losses due to his shooting, cannot be blamed for his performance (shooting) against Miami. The only game that could possibly be blamed on his poor shooting would be game 3; a game which saw the Heat run away with a 26 point win. In this game, he shot 6/18, 1/7 from 3 point range. Even if Tatum provided the Celtics with another 30 piece, they would’ve lost by 10. However, it’s impossible to tell if the score would be the same.
What can be blamed on Tatum is his dreadful performance of fourth quarter play in Games 1, 2 and 3. Tatum’s lack of aggression to demand the ball in bright moments was arguably the reason the Celtics lost game one and two. Game three is a different story.
Jaylen Brown’s inconsistency was the lowlight of game seven. Brown gave the Celtics a decent line of statistics on the box score, however, he shot just under 35%, going 1/9 from 3. He also gave up eight turnovers, a career high for both regular season and playoffs. His eight turnovers were over half of the Celtics turnovers.
The last Celtic who played extremely inconsistently was Al Horford. Some nights Horford gave Boston a nice boost from range, some nights he gave them a poor shooting performance with four rebounds to his name. The lack of reliable bigs in Boston’s lineup was a huge reason for their demise against Miami.
As per usual, the Celtics were riddled with injuries going in and coming out of the series. However, so were the Heat. The Celtics came into the series (and season) without Gallinari, but the big names included Tatum, Brown, and Brogdon.
Malcolm Brogdon sat out game 6, but was a non-factor through games 3-7. In the span of the 3 games he played through 3-7, he scored only one basket, shooting 6% from the field. It was revealed before game 6 Brogdon was playing through a partial tear in his shooting arm. It was reported he tore the tendon in game one versus Miami, but played through the injury.
This injury was not responsible for the game one loss in Boston, but could be exercised as an excuse for every game following. The 6MOY was a non-entity on the court for Boston. In fact, his shooting hurt the Celtics instead, taking shots away from other players.
Jaylen Brown missed the last two regular season games with a hand injury, needing multiple stitches. Something was wrong with Brown’s shooting touch, as he shot 16% from 3 point range against Miami. However, this is just speculation and the shooting numbers could be attributed to something different.
One last injury which killed the Celtics season was Jayson Tatum’s ankle sprain in the first quarter of game seven. Tatum rolled his ankle in the first thirty seconds of the game, and the injury subsequently affected his play for the rest of the game. He had trouble getting down the court with efficiency.
The real killer of the Celtics’ hope to win the Finals was their ego coming into the series. After coming back from a 3-2 deficit against Philadelphia, Boston saw a #8 next to Miami and did what killed Milwaukee and New York: underestimated the Heat.
Boston thought that the job was done; that they had an easy run to the Finals. By underestimating them, they played down to the Heat’s level for the first three games, losing all three. Only after the third loss did the Celtics start playing better than the Heat.
The difference between a team like the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics is the ego. The Denver Nuggets were both dominant on the court, and humble off of it. That is how they were able to defeat the Lakers in a clean sweep and come to lead the Heat in the Finals after one game. And that is how the Celtics shot themselves in the foot and lost against Miami.
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