The Celtics get a reminder who they don’t want to lose to the Heat

Forsberg: Celtics get reminders about who they don’t want originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

So many things have gone right in CelticsLand this season that it is jarring every time this team hits even a small bump in the road.

All was sunshine and sand castles for a team that had won 14 of its last 15 games going into Friday night’s rematch with the Miami Heat. Boston had a chance to sweep a family of six games notable for its abundance of good vibes.

Instead, the Celtics gave us playoff PTSD. Billed. A Jayson Tatum clunker. Jimmy Butler’s Dominance in Troubled Times. Inconsistency on the bench. Everything that complicated Boston’s pursuit of Banner 18 five months ago resurfaced Friday night, and the Celtics suffered their third overtime loss of the season.

In the big picture, it’s a blip. The Celtics still hold the best record in basketball (by two games) and their first quarter play of the season has suggested that they are definitely the best basketball team.

But Friday was an unwanted reminder of everything this team has tried to improve this year, most notably:

  • 20 slapping turnovers. After postseason ball safety issues, the Celtics remained among the league leaders in revenue percentage to start the new season. But they repeatedly kicked the ball away to lead Miami to 21 points on Friday night. “We just didn’t take care of the ball,” said Grant Williams.

  • A rare Tatum disaster. The MVP leading scorer missed 13 of 18 shots he made, including all seven of his 3-point attempts. Tatum had a chance to erase a bad outing, but hit a potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime. Unlike many games this season where Tatum found other ways to influence the win despite poor shooting, he produced perhaps his quietest overall outing of the season.

  • Jimmy Butler offers a firm reminder that he’s a bad man in troubled times. Butler, who missed the first of two games in Boston, hit multiple clutch shots to stiffen all of Boston’s progress, and if not for a 3-point prayer by 30-footer Jaylen Brown late in regulation, this game no I can’t even make an extra session.

  • Some rare trouble on the bench. The Celtics’ new second unit was a major bright spot during the first quarter of the season. But Friday night, in a game with a playoff feel, the four bench players who appeared were a total of minus 49 plus/minus. Like Tatum, Malcolm Brogdon struggled to find a rhythm, missing 5 of 7 shots and was down-20 in 21 minutes. Williams was excellent (6-8 FG, 3-4 3PT, 18 points) and deservedly got the call at the crucial moment, but his overall bench didn’t provide the usual jolt.

Celtics Talk: POD POSTGAME: Celtics can’t get over turnovers, fall to Heat in overtime | Listen and subscribe

Now, Brown has been spectacular and has done everything he can to try and carry the Celtics. The team squandered a night in which he went for 37 points, 14 rebounds and five assists (five turnovers detracted slightly from his brilliance). The Celtics will complain of some rare free throw line struggles after missing seven of 28 attempts.

The Celtics need to get over the setback quickly. Boston kicks off a six-game road trip to Brooklyn on Sunday, where the spotlight is always a little harsher given the ties between the teams. There are two back-to-backs on a road trip that goes from frigid Canada to balmy Arizona before traversing all the way up the California coast.

“This team knows we have a special group. To have the success we’ve had, we have to go through games like these,” said Williams. “You won’t be perfect. You’ll have to go to the drawing board, regroup and figure out where we can improve. If you don’t have games like these, moments like these, you won’t have this opportunity.

“We have to do a better job of execution [in crunch time] in games like these and especially entire moments. We are lucky to have led most of these matches so far this season. To play against a team like this where it was a slower pace and playing midfield, the next thing you know is it’s a draw at the end of the game those last six minutes there. We have to do a better job. We look good; it didn’t fall. Sometimes they don’t fall. Just to keep trying to improve.

“We always say you can’t be too hard on yourself because you have to ride the waves. Stay even with the tides, don’t let them go up and down. Just focus on yourself and just focus on the growth you’re progressing.”

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