Another frustrating loss puts Celtics in 2-0 hole in ECF

Stop me if you have heard this one before: The Boston Celtics blow a double-digit lead, come back to take the lead in the last five minutes of the game, and then lose in the final minutes. Sound familiar? Oh right, because it happened during Boston’s last game and it happened again last night too.

Time is indeed a flat, cruel circle these days for the Celtics as they dropped Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat by a score of 106-101, putting them down two games in the series. Though Kemba Walker had a solid bounce-back game with 23 points and both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dropped 21 points, a disastrous third quarter and sloppy second-half play overall heavily impacted Boston’s chances of winning.

Up by as many as 17 at one point while scoring 60 points on 58% shooting in the first half, it seemed the Celtics brought their A-game. And then the dumpster fire that jumped into another dumpster fire known as the third quarter happened.

The Heat outscored Boston 37-17 in the third, even going on a 20-5 scoring run during the quarter. Miami’s Bam Adebayo scored 15 of his 21 points in the third frame and Goran Dragic put in 7 of his game-high 25 points during the quarter as well. On the other side, Boston had seven turnovers in the third, and an overall 20 turnovers in the game which Miami turned into 26 points.. The first word that comes to mind after writing all of that: Yikes.

“They outplayed us,” Walker said postgame when discussing the third quarter. “It was really unacceptable on our behalf.” Unacceptable indeed.

Now yes, Miami did step up their defensive game in the second half of Game 2, holding Boston to just 41 points on 38% shooting and playing a stout zone defense. But Boston head coach Brad Stevens believes it wasn’t the Heat’s zone defensive play that was the game-changer. 

“This isn’t about zones and defenses or offenses. We just need to be better,” Stevens said after the game

Inside the Boston locker room afterward, there were reports of screaming by Marcus Smart and arguing going on between Smart and Jaylen Brown

“Guys were emotional after a hard game — hard loss,” Coach Stevens said when asked about the noise inside the locker room. 

Celtics players were quick to downplay the scene inside the dressing room, with Walker saying “It was nothing,” and Jaylen Brown adding that “A lot of people are passionate, emotional…That’s all it is, passion being expressed.”

Though this was yet another winnable game that Boston let slipped away from them, there can be positive blocks to build off of this loss. Brown raved about Smart later on postgame saying “He [Smart] plays with passion, he’s full of fire and that’s what I love about him most.” A sign that cooler heads are prevailing and perhaps spark a fire inside the team.

Along with that, there are reports of Gordon Hayward on track to return during game 3 Saturday night.  Hopefully the return of a star player in Hayward brings a helpful boost on both ends of the court for the Celtics. Hayward’s offensive rating of almost 114 during the regular season ranked him in the top five on the team and he’ll certainly contribute quality chances for the offense. 

This has been a rugged series so far but if the Celtics can lock in and focus and play better as Brad Stevens said, Boston has more than a chance to climb right back into this series. Celtics in 6.