Celtics need to tie loose ends

Published June 1, 2023, 7:00 AMLei Macaranas
Lei Macaranas

The Boston Celtics need to make major changes as they suffer another disappointing postseason exit in their loss to No. 8 seed Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

After Derrick White’s buzzer-beating tip in that tied the Eastern Conference Finals at three games apiece, the Boston Celtics looked like they were going to win it all. 

They had the chance to make history as the first team in the league to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series. If they were able to do just that, people would never stop talking about it—however, disappointment cut that momentum short as they fell to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat who was up 3-0 at the start. 

The Celtics’ best player Jayson Tatum got injured at the worst possible time when he sprained his ankle in the first play of Game 7. He’s been one of the most reliable players in the league over the last few years–scoring 51 points against the Sixers two weeks earlier—then getting hurt and struggling for the rest of the night versus the Heat. 

He averaged a series-high of 27.2 points through the first six games but was limited to only 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting despite playing for 42 minutes. Boston was already trailing at the end of the first half, but they couldn’t thrust the ball to their star player at the start of the third quarter.   

Celtics’ disconnectedness

Tatum’s injury only added fuel to the fire faced by the Boston team. As Tatum struggled, the Celtics' offense also struggled. It was obvious that he was responsible for keeping their disjointed half-court offense together. They couldn’t find their rhythm and were uncertain in the majority of the plays, resulting in a weak first half in Game 7. 

The Celtics have always struggled with this problem. They always have remarkable talent in their roster but they can’t seem to find a way to maximize the skills there and finish strong together. They needed six games to defeat the underwhelming Hawks in the first round and then immediately lost the first match against the 76ers in the second round even without season MVP Joel Embiid. 

They know that they have the capability to finish off their opponents but there are instances when they lose momentum, connectivity, and effort on defense. The Celtics are the most talented on the floor until they find an opponent who can take advantage of their lost rhythm. Miami definitely did just that as they torched Boston with some great contested shooting. The Heat also played great zone defense against the C’s, making it difficult for them to do solo drives or find the open men behind the arc. 

Finding the needed push 

As Tatum rolled his ankle, Jaylen Brown was called on to take the bigger role–but he just couldn’t produce the expected efficient offense. He only shot 8-of-23 from the field and 1-of-9 from deep while turning the ball over as many times by himself as much as the Heat did as a team. They were unable to answer back to Miami’s shots and their defense couldn’t contain the Heat offense to pull off the comeback in the second half. 

The Celtics basically don’t have a primary ball-handler that can control their offense and dictate the pace. It slows them down when doing half-court plays, forcing them to rush the ball and turn it over. Brown can’t be blamed for that weakness since his shooting and athleticism to get to the rim are his best traits.

Now, the Boston front office has a lot of thinking to do this offseason. Should they re-sign Brown? Should they get new role players that can keep the momentum going to close a series? Should they get a more experienced coach? 

Whatever their decisions may be, they should act fast about it. This was the second time that they experienced a disappointing postseason exit and they can’t seem to penetrate the wall to finally win the title. They have the talent, the star player—they’re on the right track. Boston just needs to tie all of the loose ends and try to find the final push that will close out the matches and ultimately, the season.