Celtics’ fatal flaw that will doom them in 2024 NBA Playoffs

The Celtics were historically good in the regular season, but there’s still a major question about them in the playoffs.

Celtics' Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White

The Boston Celtics were expected to run through the Eastern Conference, especially after their dominant Game 1 win against the Miami Heat. But the classic Heat Culture embodied by Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra struck again as Miami stole Game 2 at TD Garden even without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier. The Heat made 23 three-pointers en route to the massive upset against the Celtics.

After knotting the series at one, NBA pundits and fans started bashing the Celtics once again for losing to the Heat despite not having two of their main men. Even Butler took his turn to poke fun at Boston by posting on his Instagram a quote Jaylen Brown said last season while photoshopping his own face on the post. It was an underwhelming performance for the Celtics, and there are some concerns that must be rectified.

Miami was willing to give up contested twos but closed harder on the knockdown shooters after giving 22 triples in Game 1. The Heat dominated the three-point line in this game and also held off every Celtics run, refusing to fold in crunch time to secure the victory. Boston wasn’t able to get the job done throughout the second half, bringing up a concern that has plagued this team in the past.

Subpar execution in clutch situations

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives the ball against Miami Heat forward Nikola Jovic (5) in the second quarter during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
In the NBA, clutch situations are during the last five minutes of the contest with the point differential at five or less. In recent seasons, the Celtics have had their share of struggles in these situations, including in last year’s playoffs.

Boston was actually dominant in clutch situations in the 2023-24 regular season en route to a 64-18 record, but people will believe this team can execute at the highest level in crunch time when they see it. After all, several of those 18 losses in the regular season featured massive collapses and clutch meltdowns, with some against fellow top contenders. If the Celtics are going to win it all this season, they might have to beat the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who handed them two losses in the regular season in close games. The Nuggets were the best clutch team in the NBA by net rating this season.

Against the Heat in Game 2, there was no crunch-time meltdown, as the game never officially reached clutch time. That’s because Boston wasn’t able to execute enough on either end to get the game close enough to make it a clutch game. That was a troubling sign as the Celtics were not able to follow their normal game plan that features shooting as many three-pointers as possible while playing elite defense.

Boston’s outside shooting usually thrives against any organization because of impeccable ball movement and reliable snipers. But the Celtics only got up 32 three-point attempts in Game 2 after 49 in Game 1. The ball movement and shot selection weren’t as sharp thanks to Miami throwing Boston off its game, and that’s a problem we often see crop up late in close games.

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