Coming off a dominant win in Game 7 and a thrilling win in Game 6 in the second round of the playoffs, the Celtics laid an egg in Game 1 against the Miami Heat. It seemed to surprise many people, even though perhaps it shouldn’t have. In their last 22 games at home, the Celtics are 11-11. Even in the first two rounds of the playoffs, we’ve seen the Celtics stumble, making their road to the NBA Finals that much harder. However, the Celtics are still favored to win the series, and are only slightly behind the Denver Nuggets for the best odds to win the NBA Finals.
After losing homecourt advantage in the series, the Celtics are facing a near must-win situation in Game 2. What do they need to do to get the win tonight? Well, they can start with turning the ball over less. They had 15 turnovers in Game 1. They also only shot under 76% from the free throw line. In a game decided by 7 points, a few extra turnovers and few more missed free throws makes all the difference. Secondly, Jayson Tatum needs more help from his teammates. Marcus smart had only 13 points in Game 1, and while Jaylen Brown had 22, he was 1-6 from behind the arc. Malcolm Brogdon did have 19 points off the bench, but it may be asking for a lot for him to do that again. The Celtics’ Big 3 have to play better collectively. And lastly, it goes without saying, but the Celtics have got to find a way to slow Jimmy Butler down. Butler has been unbelievable in the playoffs thus far, and he had 35 points in Game 1 to lead all scorers. He also completely took over in the 4th quarter. The Celtics can’t let that happen again. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but someone else on the Heat has to beat you other than Butler.
This should be a fascinating game. Tension will be high in TD Garden tonight. The heat already did what they had to do by stealing Game 1. Winning Game 2 means far more to the Celtics than the Heat, but that brings with it its own unique pressures. Will the Celtics be tight? Afraid to make mistakes? Will the crowd get restless if the Celtics get off to a slow start? As we like to say, there’s only one way to find out.
Get your popcorn ready for this one!