C’s Look to Make Defensive Tweaks Following Game 1 OT Loss

If the last two weeks of heart-palpitating action between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors were to your liking, then buckle up, because it appears as though Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals matchup against Miami could be of the same ilk.

Game 1 against the Heat Tuesday night was loaded with intense back-and-forth competition, clutch shots, big-time stops, and even some free basketball in the form of overtime. Unfortunately for the Celtics, they were on the wrong end of the biggest stop of the night, as Bam Adebayo stuffed Jayson Tatum at the rim near the end of OT to seal a 117-114 win. On the fortunate side for the C’s, they’ve got plenty of series left and they’re excited to see how they can respond.

“It was a great game, two great teams who play really hard,” Marcus Smart said after putting up 26 points in the loss. “They got the plays that they needed that mattered. They did their job and it’s up to us to come back in Game 2 and do ours.”

Boston got a good feel for what it needs to do differently in order to get the job done in Game 2, and it starts with its late-game defense. For the majority of Game 1, Boston excelled on that end of the floor, as it held Miami to just 34 points during the first and third quarters combined, and entered the final frame with a 12-point lead. However, the C’s committed some costly fouls early in the fourth, which allowed Miami to enter the bonus and pick up some momentum.

As Smart put it after the game, the Celtics need to do a better job of “guarding their yard’ moving forward.

“We gotta put our hands up and make them go through us,” Smart said. “We bailed them out, especially late on a couple of those shots they were taking to get to them to the line and silly fouls. You gotta guard your yard. They put a lot of guys in isolation and picked on a lot of guys and you gotta guard your yard, plain and simple.”

The other defensive element that the Celtics will likely emphasize during Wednesday's film session is getting back in transition after Miami’s offense accumulated an abundance of fast-break points down the stretch.

“That’s what they do,” Kemba Walker said of Miami’s fast-paced offense, which tallied 16 fast-break points. “They’re a really great team in transition so we have to do better on that.”

And they know they can do better. After all, the Celtics did just eliminate the No. 1 transition offense in the NBA last week when they took down the Raptors.

“We believe if we clean a couple things up, we'll fix those things and it’ll be a different outcome,” said Smart. “You’ve got to tip your hat to [the Heat]. They executed very well down the stretch and we didn’t, especially on the defensive end. We had miscommunication on a lot of guys’ part. And in transition we allowed them to do what they do best, and that’s get out and run.”

Aside from their late-game defensive struggles, the Celtics have plenty of positives to take away from Game 1. There was the dominance of Jayson Tatum, who stuffed the stat sheet with 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks. There was the sharpshooting prowess of Marcus Smart, who canned six 3-pointers during a 26-point effort. There was the stellar play of Brad Wanamaker off the bench, as he notched 11 points, six assists and a game-high five steals. And there was also solid overall success against Miami’s zone defense, as the C’s displayed great ball movement early on.

All of that put together made for one heck of a series opener; unfortunately for the Celtics, they just couldn’t take it home. But now, it’s their turn to respond.

“That’s what the playoffs is: making adjustments,” said Tatum. “Seeing what you did well, seeing what you could do better, move on.”

With that, it’s on to Game 2.


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