Celtics risk implosion after devastating Game 2 loss to Heat

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) goes up for a shot attempt over Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) as Jae Crowder (99) and Goran Dragic (7) look on during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Goran Dragic scored a game-high 25 points and the Miami Heat erased a deficit as large as 17 points to come back and defeat the Boston Celtics 106-101 Thursday to take a 2-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference Final series.

After a 29-point gem in Game 1, Dragic followed up his heroics with another stellar night from the field that saw him go 10-of-19 from the field and 3-for-7 from three-point range.

With the victory, the Heat have now run their post-season record to 10-1 and look nigh unstoppable.

Meanwhile, their opponents, the Celtics, look to be in disarray as they seemed to be a different team between the first and second half and appear to be developing, perhaps, a fracturing locker room.

Here’s a few takeaways from a Miami win that may have larger consequences down the road than we may know right now.

Celtics imploding?

After the loss, reporters on the ground at AdventHealth Arena heard from the Celtics’ locker room screaming, yelling and cursing from Marcus Smart before he stormed out of the room.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like the burst of emotion from Smart was no big deal, according to them.

“He plays with passion, he’s full of fire and that’s what I love about him most, to be honest. He has that desire and that will and we need him to continue to have that,” Smart’s Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown said of him after the game. “There’s ups and downs with him all the time but we embrace each other for who we are and who Marcus is I love him for it.”

These are all the right things to say, of course, but after a second game in a conference final game that the Celtics let slip away from their fingertips one can’t help but wonder how they’re actually feeling about their situation at the moment.

Butler and Bam do it again

Similar to Game 1, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were quiet in the first half and then came alive when it mattered most for the Heat.

In the first half Adebayo only scored four points on 2-for-6 shooting but came alive in the third quarter, in particular when he feasted on a questionable decision by Celtics coach Brad Stevens of utilizing offensively strong, but defensively challenged big man Enes Kanter, scoring 15 points in the frame on outrageous 7-for-8 shooting.

Adebayo’s outburst was part of an excellent third quarter from the Heat that saw them outscore Boston by 20 points that helped Miami enter the fourth quarter with an 84-77 advantage, setting the stage for Butler to act almost like a closing pitcher in baseball and finish the job off.

Butler scored six of his total 14 points in the fourth quarter, but his impact on winning is so much greater than how much he can score.

Take for example what happened with about 3:44 to play in the game. Butler managed to poke loose a pass attempt from Jimmy Butler, tracked the ball down before it went out bounds, saved it by tossing a pass behind his back to Duncan Robinson and then cut to the basket for an easy dunk to bring the Heat within one.

Or how about when he read an inbounds pass from Smart meant for Jaylen Brown, poked it loose picked it up and found a cutting Jae Crowder to give the Heat a seven-point lead with about one-and-a-half minutes left to play?

This is what winning basketball looks like, and it’s what Butler specializes in.

Heat smother Celtics in second half

Perhaps more so than any other, the reason why the Heat won is because after surrendering 60 points on 58.1 per cent shooting in the first half, they put the clamps down on the Celtics in the second half, holding them to just 41 points on 37.9 per cent shooting.

Miami made a key adjustment at the half to play more zone and it paid off as it looked to flummox Boston’s attack, an odd sight considering the fact the Celtics’ second-round opponent, the Toronto Raptors, also played a lot of zone and Boston figured out a way to attack it.

Kemba came alive

If the Celtics are looking for a silver lining in what was a pretty bad night for them, the re-emergence of Kemba Walker is something to look at.

After being mired in a relative slump in the second round and through Game 1 with the Heat that saw Walker average 17.3 points per game on dismal 40.4 per cent shooting, he broke out a little at last Thursday night, scoring 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting.

Obviously, the Celtics would’ve preferred a win, but getting one of their key cogs going again is an encouraging sign.

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