Boston Celtics Game 1 loss is concerning, but no need to panic just yet

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second straight series this postseason, the Boston Celtics have suffered a disappointing loss in Game 1. While many will be quick to sound the alarms, especially after Boston lost the third quarter to the Miami Heat by a score of 39-14, there’s no need for everyone to panic just yet.

Yes, there are concerns that have popped up in the past 24 hours that need to be addressed. But they aren’t to the point where we should crown the Heat the winner of this series just yet.

It is, after all, just one game, and while the results weren’t what Boston and their fans would have liked to see, there’s a reason the series is best of seven. There is still a lot of basketball left to be played in this series, and the Celtics need to focus on regrouping and doing what they can to steal home court advantage away in Game 2.

Why the Boston Celtics don’t need to panic just yet

Aside from the third quarter, which the C’s managed to lose by 25 points, Boston won the other three quarters of Game 1. While a lot of the good was undone by the unsightly third frame, the Celtics found some things down the stretch of the game that ended up working for them, and they can use that to their advantage moving forward.

For starters, Boston managed to stay competitive in a game in which they were missing two of their starters in Al Horford and Marcus Smart. They weren’t expected to win this game, and while throwing away a double-digit first half lead hurts, there is still time to bounce back. Getting back either Horford or Smart (Smart seems more likely to return for Game 2 at this point) would be a huge help in Game 2.

Also, the third quarter of Game 1 will almost certainly be the worst quarter of basketball the C’s will play this series (if it isn’t then there’s a good reason to panic). They only managed to make two field goals, and they simply had no answer for the Heat’s increase in intensity. The stakes are set now, and you better believe that will not happen again in this series.

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The encouraging thing is Boston never really gave up, and kept the game closer in the second half than it probably should have been. They finally got their perimeter game going in the fourth quarter after Miami shut them out of the paint, but it proved too little too late. Getting Horford back would really help open up the offense, especially if they run a double big lineup with him and Robert Williams.

If the Boston Celtics can get both Smart and Horford back at some point in this series, they should hold an advantage over the Heat. Yes, the Heat are without their starting point guard Kyle Lowry, and Game 1 felt eerily reminiscent of the two teams’ Eastern Conference Finals matchup in 2020.

But Boston was severely undermanned in this one, to the point where Payton Prtichard and Daniel Theis were on the floor closing the game out because Rob Williams appeared to get a cramp in his leg and Grant Williams had five fouls. It wasn’t an ideal scenario in Game 1, and it makes sense that the C’s came up short.

What the Boston Celtics can do to fix their issues moving forward

That being said, a good bounce back game in Game 2 would be a welcome sight. Boston committed a lot of unforced errors in the initial contest, so coming out and playing a clean game in Game 2 (easier said than done) would be a dream come true.

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Miami switched up their defense a lot in the second half of the first game, and the Celtics had no answers for it. They ran zones, traps, full court presses, and pretty much everything in between. It led to a stretch where Jayson Tatum turned the ball over three times in a 30 second span, gifting the Heat six free points. You can’t do that if you want to beat the Heat.

The Heat shut the C’s down from the paint after they torched them there in the first half, and the Celtics failed to react quick enough. They finally figured out they could just take jump shots in the fourth quarter, but by then the game was pretty much over.

Moving forward, Boston is probably going to have to transform their offense back to what they used to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the previous round. The first half looked like a repeat of the Brooklyn Nets series where the Celtics got pretty much whatever they wanted in the paint. The Heat are a good enough team to change up their defense on the fly, and Boston found out the hard way.

Taking more threes, or midrange jumpers if the Heat run a zone, is going to be the key for the rest of the series. Boston will have more success getting to the paint against Miami, but they cannot rely on it as their sole source of scoring, which is what happened in the third quarter. Jaylen Brown, who was horrible for the first three quarters, figured this out in the fourth and ended up scoring 15 of his 24 points in the final frame.

Defensively, the Celtics need to give Jimmy Butler way more attention than they did to open the series. Butler feasted on Pritchard down the stretch of the game, and they cannot afford to give him easy matchups. The return of Smart should help there though.

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Overall, it’s still early, and there’s no reason to panic yet. The Boston Celtics lost a game they went into shorthanded; it happens. They need to regroup quickly and ensure they go out and win Game 2 though. Otherwise, the panic meters could be on the rise.