For the second straight game, the Boston Celtics didn't play a complete four quarters against the Miami Heat, and as a result, they suffered a disastrous 111-105 Game 2 loss that has their season on the brink.
Now down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the C's are in grave danger of seeing their NBA Finals dream disappear. They had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Game 2, yet they squandered it as Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo rose to the occasion. The Celtics will now have to head to South Beach and try to rally for Game 3 in order to extend their postseason.
After an awful collapse like Game 2, there's plenty of blame to go around. And while almost every member of the Green Team is at fault for the Friday night defeat, here are the three Celtics who are most to blame for the meltdown against Miami.
3. Al Horford
Al Horford is a Celtics veteran who's helped lead the team through a lot of adversity. However, in this series versus the Heat, he's looked unplayable at times.
The 36-year-old was crucial in slowing down 2023 MVP Joel Embiid in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but he hasn't been able to do the same against Adebayo. Plus, he's had little impact on the boards, as his four rebounds compared to Adebayo's 17 is a devastating disparity.
Regardless, Horford has looked even worse on offense. In nearly 29 minutes he scored just two points while going 1-for-5 from the field and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. This isn't just a Game 2 problem either, as the vet has shot 40 percent or worse from 3-point land in his last six outings.
Last 34 3-point attempts at home in the playoffs
not the best I’ve seen
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) May 20, 2023
Simply put, Horford isn't getting it done on either end of the floor. He posted a plus-minus rating of minus-15 and put up zero points in the fourth quarter. If he's not hitting his triples or playing solid defense, it's time to consider more playing time for Boston's other bigs.
2. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown is one of Boston's brightest stars, yet he hasn't shined in the Conference Finals. In fact, he completely fizzled in Game 2.
The two-time All-Star held the worst plus-minus rating of any player on either team with a terrible total of minus-24. He shot 30.4 percent from the field and made just one triple in his seven attempts from deep. Additionally, he had two turnovers and tallied only three points in the final 12 minutes of the game.
As one of the Celtics' stars, Brown has to be much better. If the Green Team has any hopes of making this series close again he can't be outplayed by the Heat's role players like he was in Game 2:
Caleb Martin off the bench:
Outscoring Jaylen Brown so far this series. pic.twitter.com/sjTXN1CIj3
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 20, 2023
What's most frustrating is that Brown has performed well throughout the season and for a good chunk of the playoffs. The Celtics wouldn't be here without him, but he has to start playing like one of the best players on the court for the Celtics to extend their season.
1. Joe Mazzulla
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla can't go out there and hit shots for the C's, however, he should shoulder a fair amount of blame for the team's struggles.
The first-year coach has looked a little out of his depth against Miami, as the Heat have one of the best coaches in the game in Erik Spoelstra. Opposing coaching aside, Mazzulla's decision-making has been subpar in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In Game 1, he gave forward Grant Williams no minutes. In Game 2, Williams finally received playing time and showed how he could've helped in the prior contest. Although he made the unwise choice to antagonize Butler, Williams scored nine points in 25 minutes and was one of the few Celtics who seemed on their game in the fourth quarter.
Heat went on a 24-9 run after this Jimmy-Grant Williams incident
Life comes at you fast 😅 pic.twitter.com/O6UQHVmxS7
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 20, 2023
Why Mazzulla opted for Payton Pritchard in Game 1 rather than Williams is puzzling, yet it wasn't his only questionable rotation move. With Horford consistently bricking in Game 2, Mazzulla probably should've played center Robert Williams III more down the stretch.
The “Time Lord” had 13 points and didn't miss a shot from the field in 23 minutes of play. And while Williams III isn't a shooting threat that the Heat have to worry about in late-game situations, Horford hasn't really been either. It might be time for the 34-year-old coach to prioritize the younger, more athletic “Time Lord” over Horford.
Overall, Game 2 was a collective loss. Horford, Brown, and Mazzulla were particularly disappointing, but no one else on the C's really stepped up either. To save the season, the Celtics need to play harder and smarter than they have all year for a full 48 minutes.