June 13, 2024

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The Celtics give credit to an impressive Heat team, but no one plays the adversity card

The Celtics give credit to an impressive Heat team, but no one plays the adversity card

BOSTON — Given the way the Miami Heat went about their business Wednesday — hitting 23 3-pointers in their 111-101 win over the Celtics at TD Garden — it was only natural that Celtics coach Joe Mazzola would do so. A series of questions will be asked about Miami's wave of triples.

And that's exactly what happened, as Mazzola was asked about the sheer volume of three-point attempts the Heat were able to make – 43 of them! — and what can be done about it as the series, now deadlocked with a win apiece, moves to Miami on Saturday night.

But then Mazzola received a Hallmark greeting card from a reporter who wondered if losing a playoff game could be a forfeit good The thing is, giving you a chance to, you know, face some adversity.

Mazzola would have been excused had he chosen to shoot this out of a cannon. Instead, he chose diplomacy.

“The thing you're going to go through in a qualifying series no matter how long it goes…it's unfortunate that losing a game is an ordeal,” he said. “It's just the nature of the playoffs.”

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Now make no mistake: If the Celtics go on to eliminate a worthy Western Conference opponent in the NBA Finals, there's a good chance someone wearing a championship green jersey will return to that late April night at TD Garden when the Celtics lost. Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to Miami. There will be big speeches at the reunion rally about how the Celtics came together as a team after that game and how they overcame adversity — wait for it, wait for it.

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But that's all for later, assuming there is a later. In the here and now, the Celtics need to take down an undermanned Heat team with as much accuracy and speed as possible, the better to prepare for the tougher battles ahead. If the Celtics want to make history, they have to know their history. They need to know that last year's no-nonsense version of the Heat upset the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. And there's no need to remind the Celtics that they lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last year — after winning three straight games to even the series and then getting blown out in Game 7.

So, no, the Celtics don't need to learn from adversity. I've been there and done that.

But perhaps they need to be reminded that, as a build-up to Game 2 on Wednesday, the Heat turned what was shaping up to be a blowout loss to the Celtics into a closer one than it should have been. The result, thanks to a strong fourth quarter.

The truth is that the Celtics learned nothing on Wednesday night except that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra came up with a game plan to have his players shoot a lot of 3s, and that means the players executed that game plan in a very entertaining way (if you're not a Celtics fan). Three-pointers in a vacuum are a certain kind of beauty, but a three-pointer display is pure magic. And with seven Miami players connecting on 3-pointers, including six from Tyler Herro and five from Caleb Martin, that's a whole lot of magic.

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As Celtics quarterback Jaylen Brown incorrectly put it: “I think they're well-coached… They had a good game plan, they felt confident and they came out and executed.”

Jayson Tatum also incorrectly said: “The playoffs are about making adjustments from game to game, and they did.”

Brown (33 points) and Tatum (28 points) were the top scorers in the match. One would have thought that these two Celtics veterans would lead Boston to an easy win based on what they were doing in the first half. Tatum was a really versatile player early on, like when he moved the paint like he was going for a first down on third-and-6 to give the Celtics an early 6-4 lead…or when he took an alley-oop for a run. of Brown and hit it home to make it 11-9… or when he hit nothing but the net down the middle from 27 feet to make it 14-9… or when he hit a very lackluster jumper in the second quarter. As for Brown, he went on a tear in the final minutes of the first half, including three 3-pointers and a layup.

But the Heat scored 13 three-pointers in the first half.

It should be noted that there was not a lot of booing from Celtics fans in the final minutes of the game. Oh, there was a lungful of leather here and there, but nothing in the way of a chorus. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Celtics fans probably thought along the lines of Brown and Tatum. The heat came great. And maybe they realize that this is a different Celtics team with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, not that Porzingis had a big role on Wednesday night, and that last year was last year.

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But this could get ugly if the Celtics don't take down Miami. Overcoming adversity is 2023.

(Photo of Caleb Martin shooting a 3-pointer over Sam Hauser: David Butler II/USA Today)