Four Takeaways After Celtics Crumble To Heat In Game 2 Loss

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BOSTON — With nearly a week to rest and prepare before the playoffs, a fully healthy roster, and no worries about needing to defend Jimmy Butler, the Celtics still found a way to abuse having everything on their side in Game 2.

Miami shocked Boston, taking a 111-101 victory to even up the series at 1-1 on Wednesday night. While the Heat were urgent, the Celtics played a nonchalant and relaxed second half, watching Miami dangle a feasible lead over them. In response, Boston played content. The defense was mediocre, which hampered the offense’s ability to find baskets in transition. The ball movement wasn’t sharp, opening the door for turnovers and more offense from the Heat to further pile on the pressure.

It was a disastrous night, with no wiggle room for excuses. Here are four takeaways from Celtics-Heat Game 2:

1. Miami’s Caleb Martin reaffirmed himself as Boston’s Round 1 villain
Martin was the sole collector of the overwhelming majority of boos poured down from the TD Garden, and that didn’t change throughout the night.

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In the second quarter, Martin tried dunking over 7-foot-2 Kristaps Porzingis — and came up very short. While that did keep the 28-year-old from a viral social media moment, it didn’t stop Martin from showing more toughness than anyone else on the floor.

Martin delivered 21 points, shooting 5-of-6 from three. He caught fire, made the right plays, attacked the basket when necessary, and helped put Boston’s defense to shame. The exact strength — defense — which the Celtics relied on when facing much stronger opponents throughout the regular season.

“We’ve been in these situations many times before,” Martin explained postgame, per team-provided video.”Just staying with it through bad games, through slumps, including myself. And just having the confidence to — in our group, in our staff — put something together to put us in the right position to play well in the next game no matter what.”

2, Even without Jimmy Butler, the Heat might have some dog within themselves
Similarly to last season’s playoffs, though under significantly different circumstances for the Celtics and the Heat, Miami still refuses to count itself out and accept the outside expectations.

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Miami logged its fourth playoff contest in the last two seasons shooting over 50% from three, and all of them have come against Boston. The Heat flipped the script following a nearly record-setting performance in outside shooting from the Celtics in Game 1, hitting a franchise-record 23 threes in a single playoff game. The plan was clear from the beginning — out-shoot Boston — and even though the Celtics knew it, they still failed to adjust.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Jayson Tatum said. “There’s a lot of history between these two franchises. Regardless of seeding or who’s in, and who’s out, it’s the playoffs. Especially with that team, that’s never gonna go out the way people expect it to go.”

3. Miami was physical, and it proved to be a (slight) problem for Boston
Martin’s Game 1 antics weren’t expected specifically; however, the physical presence that the Heat enforced was, and it constantly impacted Boston’s ability to get out in front.

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The Celtics made sloppy passes, committing 13 turnovers, which resulted in 20 points added to Miami’s total. When the Heat ensured buckets at the rim wouldn’t come easily, it seemingly caught Boston by surprise, even though several voices in the locker room claimed they expected Miami to get physical. It didn’t work in favor of the Heat in Game 1, but on a night where the Celtics couldn’t rely on shooting from the outside — Boston shot 12-of-32 — the opportunity to snag an edge presented itself for Miami.

“They’re physical. They make it tough and stuff like that,” Jaylen Brown said. “… We just gotta fight for our spacing. We gotta be just as physical and look forward to it. On our space, catch the ball with physicality. Don’t wait for the ref to make a call.”

4. Game 3 will be Boston’s true series test
Capitalize or let go of the rope. Those are the two options for the Celtics as the series now heads to Miami.

“It’s unfortunate that losing a game is adversity, I would say,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “It’s just in nature of the playoffs, which is adverse itself. So to think that you’re not gonna have ups and downs throughout a run, you’re just not being realistic.”

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The Tatum and Brown-led Celtics have made it a habit of allowing subpar teams to gain momentum and stretch what should be four, five-game series into six, seven-game nail-biting battles. That was the case when Boston matched up with the Hawks, Sixers, and Heat last postseason, and prompted the front office to add Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday.

Now, with a much better group talent-wise, Boston still needs a refresher course. If the Celtics don’t take control, they’ll soon find out how ugly the series can get — once again.

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