Was Saturday’s loss worse than Game 5 vs. Milwaukee? Maybe it’s the recency bias talking, but it sure feels like that’s the case. If the eye test didn’t sway you one way, some of Saturday’s numbers might; there are some really gross ones.
Not only did the Celtics miss seven free throws — which would’ve given them the lead at the final whistle — but they more than doubled Miami’s trips to the line (30 vs. 14). Something else they did a lot more than the Heat is turn the ball over. Miami had nine turnovers on Saturday, Boston had 24 (nearly three times the Heat’s total). That’s one turnover every other minute for the Celtics. Who knew it was possible to have more turnovers than assists (21) as a team in an NBA game?
Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown accounted for 17 of those turnovers, with Brown logging seven. So even though Brown helped the Celtics make their huge push late, he was a big part of why they were in such a massive hole. Although, at least he didn’t do what Tatum did and score 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting.
“I feel like I left the guys hanging tonight,” Tatum said. “That’s on me. I acknowledge that. That’s a tough one.”
What makes this all worse is Jimmy Butler (knee) didn’t play in the second half. This Celtics group at near-full strength should never lose to any team that’s missing its No. 1 player. Does not matter who the opponent is, that’s inexcusable.
“We talked about not being complacent with where we’re at and getting the win on the road,” Ime Udoka said. “(Tonight) it was more so a little unusual being caught off-guard with physicality. It’s not like they changed much schematically. They just upped their pressure, upped aggressiveness on both ends. … It’s more so just matching that physicality because that’s what they’ve done in two quarters that really stand out.
“(Our physicality) is a big part of who we are, and we’ve fallen off as far as that in certain aspects in this series so far. Got to come back and match that — that can’t be the reason we lose a series. That’s obviously the identity we want to have on our side. To come out and get bullied around a little bit is disappointing for sure.”
The Celtics came into the Eastern Conference Finals as the betting favorites, but this series was still largely expected to go six games, which is now how long it has to go at minimum if the Celtics hope to reach the NBA Finals. However, coming in, the Heat were expected to earn a pair of wins. As much as Miami has played hard this series, they haven’t had to earn much yet, which doesn’t bode well for the Celtics.