By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics looked so good in the first half of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and then oh so bad in the second half. Now the Miami Heat own a 2-0 series lead after winning Game 2, 106-101, on Thursday night.
The Celtics failed to close out their opponent again, and it led to some choice words being yelled in the locker room after the game. A 13-point halftime lead evaporated for Boston as the Celtics were outscored 37-17 in the third quarter, committing seven turnovers in the frame. Miami outscored them 23-6 over the last 6:19 of what could be the worst quarter the Celtics have played this postseason.
Unfortunately, there are a bunch to pick from, and most of them are third quarters.
“We pulled apart and didn’t play well,” head coach Brad Stevens said of the team’s third-quarter issues. “They did a good job. We’re not beating this team if we’re not connected on both ends of the court. Right now, they’re a better team and we’re going to have to fight to get back into this series.”
“They outplayed us. That’s the long story short. They outplayed us,” said Jayson Tatum. “That’s twice we’ve given up big leads and let them off the ropes. We have to look at the next one and not think that we have to win four.”
The lumps continued for the Celtics into the fourth quarter and Miami built an eight-point lead, as Boston got up to 11 straight missed threes at one point. But the C’s hung around, and Kemba Walker drained one from deep with 7:19 in the game to end that streak and get Boston to within two, 89-87. Jaylen Brown put in a Walker missed three a few minutes later to tie the game at 89-89.
Miami started the fourth 2-for-12, which kept the game close. A 15-2 run gave the Celtics a 94-89 lead, capped by a Walker three with 4:25 to go. But a Jimmy Butler driving layup tied the game at 95-95 with 3:05 to go, and after a pair of Goran Dragic free throws and a Kemba missed three for Boston, Dragic drained a triple to put Miami up 100-95 with 1:42 to play.
Butler stole Boston’s inbound after the Celtics called a timeout and got it to Jae Crowder for an easy two to give Miami a 102-95 advantage with 1:26 left. That was Boston’s 19th turnover of the game. They finished with 20, leading to 26 points for the Heat.
Back-to-back Brown threes kept it interesting, making it 104-101 with 49.4 left, and the Celtics had a chance to tie when Butler turned it over with 23.6 left. But Brown missed a corner three with 10.6 to go, and Bam Adebayo came down with the miss for his 10th rebound. Butler drained a pair of freebies to seal the win for Miami.
The Miami zone shut down the Celtics in the second half, as Boston scored just 41 points over the final 24 minutes of the game.
“This isn’t about zones and defenses and offenses and stuff like that. We’ve just got to be better,” Stevens said after the loss.
After blowing a 14-point fourth quarter lead in Game 1, the Celtics know they need to be a whole lot better going forward if they want any shot at a trip to the NBA Finals.
“Both games we had moments where we had lapses and that team over there is together for 48 minutes. We have to be together for 48 minutes. We haven’t done that but I think we’re capable,” said Brown, who finished with 21 points. “I think this series is far from over and I’m ready for Game 3.”
Walker shook off his struggles from the last four games, finishing with 23 points off 9-for-19 shooting. Tatum had 21 points on 6-for-12 shooting, but took several questionable shots, including a forced drive at the end of the third when he should have held on for the final shot of the quarter. Instead, Tatum was whistled for a charge, and Dragic closed the frame with a driving layup to put Miami up 84-77.
All five of Miami’s starters finished in double figures, led by 25 points by Dragic. Adebayo had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Duncan Robinson had 18 points off six made three pointers.
The Celtics built a 17-point lead in the first half and led 60-47 at halftime off 58 percent shooting (25-for-43 overall, 6-for-14 from three). But Boston hit just 11 of its 29 shots in the second half.
Boston outscored Miami 29-19 in the second quarter, and it could have been more had the Celtics not missed their last four shots of the half. It turns out those final four possessions were an omen for what was to come in the second half.
The Celtics now have a big hole to dig themselves out of, starting with Game 3 on Saturday night.