Stevens Simplifies C's Solution: 'We Have To Play Better'

BOSTON – It’s clear that the Celtics must improve in multiple areas of the game in order to climb back into their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat. To Brad Stevens, though, the solution to the team’s problems is simple.

“We have to play better,” he said bluntly Thursday afternoon.

Quite a broad statement from the coach, but an accurate one nonetheless.

Boston has rarely played up to its ability through the first four games of this series. Now, as a result, it trails 3-1 and faces elimination Friday night in Game 5.

That fact doesn’t seem to have shaken Stevens all too much. The reason is because he’s confident in his team’s ability to respond to adversity, which it has done all season long. In this case, if the C’s do respond Friday night, Stevens likes their chances.

“I believe that if we put forth our best effort, if we are locked in on what we need to accomplish and we play with great authority and confidence,” he said, “then we can win any given game.”

For now, the only game on which the Celtics must concentrate is Friday’s. It is a must-win scenario in a literal sense: Win and they survive to fight another day; lose and a promising season comes to an end.

Stevens eventually drilled down a bit more with regard to what Boston can do to achieve the former option and extend this series. The Celtics, in his mind, must make their presence be felt in order to turn things around.

“I think we have to play with more assertiveness, aggressiveness on both ends of the floor,” said Stevens. “I thought that the way that we were playing offensively bled into the defense yesterday in the first half.

“I thought when we needed stops as the game went on, we started to really roll offensively, but we hadn't really created a night where they had felt us by then. So they were comfortable.”

One player, in particular, who was more comfortable than anyone else was Tyler Herro. A bed at the Four Seasons couldn’t have even given him more comfort than he had on the court Wednesday night.

Herro, a 20-year-old rookie, set a new Miami franchise record for points scored in a playoff game by a rookie. The previous record was 27 points by future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade. Herro blew past that mark Wednesday night with 37 points.

Herro’s performance was of historic value, as he became one of just four players 20 years old or younger to score at least 33 points in a playoff game.

His emergence during Game 5 was just more evidence of the strength Miami carried into this series from the get-go: balance.

The Heat have six players averaging at least 10.4 points per game during this postseason, and six who are shooting at least 36.9 percent from 3-point range. Stevens referenced Thursday that the Miami has had only one instance all postseason – a stretch of 13 games – in which it has had the same player lead the team in scoring in consecutive games, adding that such a trend is “appropriate for their team.”

He added, “I think that the more you watch them and the more you see them up close, Herro, (Goran) Dragic, (Duncan) Robinson, (Jae) Crowder, those guys can all go around (Jimmy) Butler and (Bam) Adebayo. Butler and Adebayo do a great job of providing actions and getting guys going. I think that that's a strength of their team.”

The Celtics can weaken that strength if they play a more assertive, aggressive and effective brand of basketball.

This isn’t about Xs and Os. This is just about playing better.

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