The Boston Celtics biggest opponent at this point is themselves

Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics have won or tied 10 of the first 12 quarters of basketball they have played against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Yet somehow, they find themselves trailing in the series 2-1, with their season now most likely on the line in Game 4.

The Celtics have been a remarkably resiliant team all season long, but it would be nice if they could make things easy on themselves every once in awhile. If it weren’t for two bad quarters of basketball in Games 1 & 3, they could very well be up 3-0 in this series. Instead, Game 4 is likely going to determine Boston’s postseason fate for the second straight series.

Against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the C’s managed to pull off a huge fourth quarter comeback that would eventually help them send the Bucks home for the offseason. Against the Heat though, things feel different. That’s because Boston’s biggest threat to their title chances haven’t been the Heat so far; it’s been themselves.

The Boston Celtics need to get out of their own way if they want to beat the Miami Heat

In their two losses, the Celtics have been played some unbelievably sloppy basketball. This has resulted in Boston turning the ball over 15+ times in both losses, including a paltry 23 in Game 3 the other night. Not only are those wasted offensive possessions, Miami is so good in the transition and fastbreak game that they are almost always leading to free points.

Speaking of which, the Heat are torching the Boston Celtics in transition. They are moving the ball with pace and taking advantage of Boston complaining to refs or just playing lazy defense. Kyle Lowry‘s return in Game 3 certainly exacerbated that issue, but it’s just another area Boston keeps beating themselves in.

Even with fouling, the C’s have become lazy. They continually commit boneheaded offensive fouls, or get baited by Jimmy Butler on up-fakes which lead him to the free throw line. Boston shot 15 more free throws than Miami in Game 3, but it didn’t matter because they were so bad in every other facet of the game.

The Celtics have looked like the 2021 version of themselves early on in this series, which is a truly frightening sign. In Game 1, Jaylen Brown was arguably Boston’s worst player, and the only reason his statline is respectable is because he found his shot in the fourth quarter. In Game 3, it was Jayson Tatum‘s turn to wet the bed, as he had six turnovers and failed to make a single shot in the second half.

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The Heat have certainly forced the issue, but a lot of this 2-1 series deficit falls on Boston, particularly it’s stars in Tatum and Brown. Tatum has managed to break free of every defender he’s come across this postseason, except for P.J. Tucker, who is frustrating him to a new degree early on. Brown has been careless with the ball all postseason long, but it’s become even worse against Miami, as he’s averaging 3.3 turnovers per game through three games now.

Can the Boston Celtics turn things around and beat the Miami Heat?

The Celtics have proven time and again all season long that you simply cannot count them out. While it’s certainly still doable, having to beat Miami three time in fives games certainly isn’t going to be an easy task. The Heat are well coached, and through the first three contests, they have proven to be more poised than Boston despite their lack of star power.

It’s clear though that the C’s have the talent to overcome the Heat and win this series. Tatum isn’t going to play as bad as he did in Game 3 again, and if he’s even serviceable last night, the Celtics probably win that game. Boston’s also been plagued by bad health, although Miami was without their top player in Butler for the entire second half last night and still managed to win.

The other issue that keeps popping up (for me at least) is the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. So much has changed since then for both teams since their last meeting in the ECF, but so far the results on the court have been fairly similar. Boston controlled much of that series, yet Miami clamped up when they had to, and they punched their ticket to the Finals in six games.

This series has felt eerily similar through three games. The Celtics have controlled the proceedings for all but two quarters and still lost twice, which isn’t a good sign. Logic says the results will even out, but that’s not always the case in a seven game series. They are losing games they very well should be winning, and you can’t afford to do that in the playoffs.

Next. Celtics torch Heat in Game 2 explosion. dark

Things were supposed to be different this time around. Tatum and Brown had matured, and their supporting cast has vastly improved since 2020. Yet three games in, it’s been all the same, and if the Boston Celtics don’t get out of their own way in Game 4, the result of the series will most likely be the same as the one in 2020.