June 24, 2024

The NBA coach who reached out on Thursday afternoon wasn’t calling to boast; rather, he expressed concern.

“Are they going to avoid messing this up?” he asked.

While the Celtics’ 111-101 loss to Miami in Game 2 could be attributed to the Heat’s proficiency beyond the 3-point line, this experienced coach was more worried about Boston’s approach on the offensive end. This concern echoed his earlier sentiments shared with Heavy Sports in March. Despite the Celtics mostly addressing their offensive issues that had haunted them in past playoffs, the coach felt they might be overly focused on their approach.

To revisit his earlier warning:

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“My concern with Boston is that they sometimes aggressively pursue mismatches instead of allowing the game to flow naturally,” he had said. “When they move the ball around fluidly, it’s mesmerizing to watch, and you start wondering, ‘How do we even stop this?'”

“But if you manage to slow them down, some of their players become frustrated and attempt to force plays. They are talented enough to succeed often, but if they fail a couple of times, it tends to disrupt their rhythm on both offense and defense.

“The challenge for them in the playoffs is that the game tends to slow down, and they need to maintain a fast pace even in half-court situations.”

Regarding Kristaps Porzingis’ performance on Thursday, he remarked, “They tried to exploit matchups with (Kristaps) Porzingis when Miami had smaller defenders on him, but when he missed a few shots, he seemed to struggle. He can sometimes have difficulty against smaller defenders who get low on him. Remember when (the Celtics) used to assign Marcus Smart to guard him?”

Porzingis indeed had a tough night, shooting 1 for 9 from the field and scoring only six points. The Celtics were outscored by 32 points when he was on the court.

However, the issues extended beyond Porzingis, with Miami capitalizing on 20 points from 13 turnovers committed by Boston.

“They played hard, but at times, it became too mechanical as they overthought the matchups and execution,” the coach observed. “Ironically, they probably would have won the game if Miami hadn’t been so successful from beyond the arc.”

Regarding Miami’s exceptional 3-point shooting, he noted, “You can’t expect them to shoot like that from 3-point range again. However, Boston needs to find a way to limit their effectiveness. Miami had too many open looks because it seemed like Boston was overly focused on protecting the paint.

“However, it all comes back to offense. When you struggle on offense, it can impact your defensive intensity and cohesion. It shouldn’t happen, but it often does. Every coach has dealt with it. The best approach now for (Joe) Mazzulla is to address their defensive shortcomings and then unleash them on offense.”

And it’s not hindsight when you were expressing these concerns over a month and a half ago.

Celtics star Jaylen Brown (right)

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