BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics love to put themselves in difficult positions. So we probably should have seen Friday night’s disappointing Game 6 coming.
Boston had a chance to secure a spot in the NBA Finals on Friday night on their home court, but got outplayed in just about every facet of the game by the Miami Heat.
After the frustrating defeat, the Celtics have their backs against the wall once again. They will have to bounce back from a tough loss once again. They will have to win a Game 7 to advance once again.
“If it was easy it wouldn’t be us,” Derrick White said after scoring 22 points in Game 6. “We’re gonna get on the plane and go down to Miami and win a Game 7. We have a lot of confidence in this group.”
Game 6 was filled with missed opportunities for Boston. They let Jimmy Butler and the Heat throw the first punch, and they rarely matched Miami’s intensity throughout the 111-103 loss. Any time they got close — or had a chance to pull away — the Celtics turned the ball over and let the Heat hit a big shot.
Boston turned the ball over 18 times (10 of which were steals by the Heat) which led to 22 Miami points. Ime Udoka is going to have one angry pep talk ready for his team for Saturday’s film session.
“A lot of careless ones and unforced,” Udoka said of all of Boston’s turnovers. “Any time we got within striking range it felt like we had a poor decision, so it kept it a five-, seven-point margin. We had chances and didn’t take advantage of them.”
Whether it was Butler, Kyle Lowry or Max Strus, the Heat hit big shots throughout the game on Friday. The Celtics did not.
And the biggest issue that plagued Boston all season — late-game execution — returned in Game 6. The game was tied 99-99 with 2:18 left, and the Celtics had a chance to take a lead when Jaylen Brown stepped to the line for a pair of free throws. He missed both.
The Heat pulled down Brown’s second miss, and Jimmy Butler drove to the hoop for a three-point play. Jayson Tatum then turned it over — one of his seven giveaways in the game — and Butler added a pair of freebies to give Miami a five-point edge.
After Brown missed his two free throws, Miami outscored Boston 12-4. That’s not how you close a game with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
The Heat pushed the Celtics around early and Boston never matched their intensity. And while Butler put the finishing touches on his 47-point masterpiece, the Celtics got very little from their two stars. Tatum and Brown had just seven shots in the second half. Tatum didn’t take his first shot of the fourth quarter until there was a minute left in the game, and had just four points in the final frame. Brown scored two points in the fourth quarter.
Much of that, and those turnovers, had to do with the Miami D making life difficult on Boston’s two stars whenever they got the ball. But the Celtics know that they let a great opportunity slip away on Friday night, and now they’re going to have to play a perfect Game 7 on Sunday evening on the road.
“We’ve been resilient all year and this is a different test,” Brown said Friday night. “Obviously this game hurt to lose on our home floor. But we have to have a short memory. That team over there is hungry and experienced, so we have to come out ready to go, come out with a great mentality [on Sunday].”
Friday night was a dud for the Celtics. They can’t afford any more duds. They know this, and they remain a confident bunch heading into Sunday’s Game 7.
“On a scale of 1-10, a 10,” Tatum replied when asked of his confidence level. “It shouldn’t be any less than that, right? It’s the last game, this is what it’s all about. My confidence level is a 10 for myself and this group.”
If the Celtics play Celtics basketball, then they should be confident that they’ll get a win on Sunday. If the Celtics continue to turn the ball over and let Miami do whatever they want, as they’ve done in all three losses this series, then they will not be going to the NBA Finals.
But the Celtics have been bouncing back in the face of adversity for six months now, and they seem to be at their best when the pressure is at its highest. They’ve yet to lose two straight games this postseason. They won two games in Miami this series and are 6-2 on the road in the playoffs. And they have a Game 7 victory under their belt as well.
They made things a lot more difficult than they had to be, but the Celtics can do this. And if they don’t, they’ll face a long, long summer of disappointment.
Source : https://www.cbsnews.com/boston/news/celtics-jayson-tatum-confidence-level-game-7-heat-eastern-conference-finals-nba-playoffs/