To begin with, enable us to take this chance to remind Celtics followers to breathe.
The Celtics misplaced Sport 1 of the Jap Convention finals to the Warmth on Wednesday, falling 123-117. If we’ve discovered something about this yr’s Celtics group, we all know that dropping a sport is just not the top of the street. The Celtics misplaced the primary sport of the Jap Convention semifinals to the 76ers simply over per week in the past. They misplaced the primary sport of the Jap Convention finals final yr … additionally to the Warmth (who have been higher as an entire than this group, though this yr’s model of Jimmy Butler is a sight to behold).
However the Celtics have to be higher, and definitely extra constant than they have been in Sport 1.
They will’t enable 46 factors in 1 / 4. They will’t get outscored by 21 factors over a 12-minute stretch. They will’t soften down late.
And particularly, they’ll’t enable two stats to copy themselves in Sport 2 in the event that they hope to even this collection and put themselves ready to succeed in the Finals for the second consecutive yr.
No. 1: 6 steals for Jimmy Butler
Each steal is immensely pricey for the group that surrenders it, as a result of each steal is a live-ball turnover.
That’s doubly true when the individual stealing the ball is Butler, who’s as soon as once more proving himself to be an ideal antithesis to James Harden — a participant who solely bothers to be a transcendent famous person within the absolute greatest moments of the season.
Butler recorded six steals in Wednesday’s win. All six have been preventable, and all six have been pricey.
The primary was a mistake by Malcolm Brogdon, who bought caught within the air and tried to cross out of it however discovered Butler ready in his passing lane.
The second was the primary of Jayson Tatum’s 4 turnovers. Tatum tried to drive between two gamers and bought stripped, a play paying homage to final yr’s collection in ways in which Celtics followers would possibly choose to overlook.
However the Celtics actually allowed Butler to get going within the second half. Marcus Sensible began the third quarter by lobbing a pin-point cross over Bam Adebayo to Robert Williams for a dunk. He tried to do the identical factor to Butler a couple of minutes later, however Butler — who by no means overlooked the ball all through the whole play — leapt and tapped the cross away. By the way, the play itself was one thing Sensible did to Adebayo within the first half. Butler has slightly little bit of Sensible in his sport.
Butler’s fourth steal got here when Jaylen Brown bought unfastened along with his deal with making an attempt to submit him up. Nearly casually, Butler reached in and swatted the ball away.
His fifth was much like his first — Al Horford discovered himself in a compromised place after grabbing an offensive rebound with three minutes remaining down by 5, and he launched a cross that Butler intercepted with ease.
And eventually, with the Celtics nonetheless down by 5, Butler picked off Tatum once more – this time looking for Jaylen Brown after he discovered himself swarmed and in bother. That was a part of a deeply irritating stretch for the Celtics, who held the Warmth scoreless whereas trailing by seven for greater than three minutes of sport time late within the fourth and made up simply three factors throughout that stretch partially on account of Butler’s defensive brilliance (and partially on account of their very own offensive struggles, which we’ll get to momentarily).
Butler is a menace on the defensive finish, however a participant who collects six steals in a sport possible did so with some assist from the opposite group. Handing the ball to Butler, particularly late, is a well-known recipe for a dish that tasted unhealthy for the Celtics final yr and could possibly be toxic this yr in the event that they don’t discover a option to eliminate it rapidly.
No. 2: 4 subject aim makes an attempt for Jayson Tatum within the second half
At a look, Tatum’s field rating seems to be high-quality. He completed along with his requisite 30 factors and took 11 journeys to the free-throw line. Digging slightly deeper, Tatum’s utilization price was strong — second solely to Jaylen Brown’s — and he took eight of his 11 free throws within the second half.
However the Celtics are at their greatest when Tatum is in charge of the sport, and in opposition to the Warmth, he ought to have loads of alternatives to be in management. Miami has quite a lot of defenders who’re prime candidates to be focused, and Tatum ought to be capable of get by them comfortably — both trying to rating or forcing double groups that create benefits. For a sputtering offense, a wholesome quantity of Tatum’s scoring and offensive play-making is commonly sufficient to get the engine going once more.
As a substitute, Tatum took simply 4 pictures within the second half and recorded zero assists. The free throws mitigated, however the late turnovers aggravated. Within the first half, Tatum helped the Celtics eviscerate Miami’s zone and compelled the protection again into man-to-man, which also needs to be a bonus, however aggressive protection and an absence of composure disrupted the Celtics’ spacing within the second half.
The Warmth are a really completely different group than the Hawks and 76ers. They’re composed, collected and aggressive on each ends. Even their weakest defenders appear to know precisely what they need to be doing, and so they execute the sport plan at a excessive degree.
Nonetheless, Tatum must be extra concerned down the stretch, particularly when he’s taking part in effectively. On Wednesday, Tatum seemed able to dominate … if the Celtics may simply decelerate and get into their offense. Determining how to try this is without doubt one of the hardest challenges groups face in opposition to the Warmth, however the Celtics might want to pull it off in Sport 2.
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