The Boston Celtics’ chance to make it back to the NBA Finals went up in smoke at the hands of the Miami Heat. Led by an outstanding game from Jimmy Butler, the Heat defeated the Celtics 111-103 on their homecourt and forced a Game 7.
Butler posted the sequel to LeBron James Game 6 in Boston with a monstrous stat line of 47 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals on 16-29 shooting. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored 30 and 20 respectively while the key players behind them, namely Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Grant Williams barely contributed. The Heat dominated throughout the game and now have all the momentum for Game 7 on their home turf.
Really, every Celtics player and head coach Ime Udoka shares some blame for the loss. Derrick White shares the least because of his outstanding two-way dominance. The rest of the team has a lot of questions to answer. Whether they are a star who didn’t live up to expectations, a coach whose game plan fell apart or a key role player who had an awful game, there are many people who deserve the blame.
5 Celtics most to blame for Game 6 loss to Heat
3. Al Horford and Marcus Smart
The reason Al Horford and Marcus Smart are listed together is simply that they had poor performances. They aren’t expected to carry as much of a burden as other players on their team (who will be named later) but with the burdens they did have to carry, they failed.
Horford didn’t score until the fourth quarter and need the game with three points. He didn’t provide much value on defense, either. After going blow-for-blow with Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s disappointing for Boston to see Horford be such a non-factor.
Smart shot a dismal 1-9 from deep and 4-15 from the field overall. with such a lack of efficiency from the Celtics player who took the most triples, it was difficult for Boston to keep up with the Heat’s 3-point barrage.
While the Heat got Kyle Lowry’s best performance of the playoffs and strong shooting from Max Strus and P.J. Tucker, Tatum and Brown’s henchmen failed to step up. But the Celtics’ star duo is far from blameless.
2. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
The Celtics live and die by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, their stars who are expected to lead them. Their leadership on the court was not enough in Game 6.
Tatum’s 30 points on 9-12 shooting look great on the surface but looking into the finer details shows how gilded this performance was. He committed four turnovers in the fourth quarter while scoring only six points. 18 of his points came in the first half. White took up the job of going shot for shot with Butler while Tatum registered only one field-goal attempt in the final frame.
Jaylen Brown scored 20 points on 6-13 shooting but also committed four turnovers, fouled out and missed two huge free throws with two minutes left that could have given the Celtics the lead. He shot 0-3 from the floor in the second half while committing five fouls.
1. Ime Udoka
The Celtics looked outmatched for most of this game. Their lack of energy and urgency comes down to Ime Udoka’s coaching.
For one, each team’s superstars were used quite differently. While Jimmy Butler shot more times than his next two closest teammates combined with 29 shots, Tatum took the fourth-most shots on the Celtics with only 12. Both the coach and the star share the blame here. Udoka also didn’t look to do much to aggressively stop Butler even as he poured on the points.
The most visible sin from Udoka was his use of his challenge early in the fourth quarter on an and-1 shot from Jimmy Butler. He used it to save Grant Williams from his fifth foul and failed. That challenge would have been crucial down the stretch, especially on a questionable offensive foul from Tatum.
The Celtics allowed the Heat to get lots of open looks from deep (of which they converted 42.9 percent) while their offense sputtered. Udoka obviously can’t defend those shots or make the right plays himself but he has to make sure his guys on the floor can. They couldn’t. Now, they’re headed to Miami for Game 7.