Boston Celtics: Player grades for another blown lead and loss to Heat

Boston Celtics (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics dropped Game 2 in a remarkably similar fashion to their game one loss to the Miami Heat in an Eastern Conference finals they now trail 0-2.

Another “home” game, another loss for the Boston Celtics. In what has been a trend throughout the entire postseason in the Lake Buena Vista bubble, the team with their own fans and logos on the video boards set up in the Wide World of Sports arenas in Walt Disney World has dropped the game despite having the best a home-court advantage can get during a neutral-site tournament during a pandemic.

The Miami Heat were the better team Thursday night after the Celtics were the better team for most of the first half. When the third quarter rolled around, the script was promptly flipped. A 15-point first-half lead was squandered by a Cs team that turned the ball over a staggering 30 times throughout Game 2, including three coming out of inbounds plays.

There is no path to victory for Boston if they can’t give themselves opportunities to score on offense. Their lack of a true rim protector has been exploited in this series by the down-low dominance of Bam Adebayo and the relentless drives of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic.

In Game 2, the perimeter defense was lacking too. Duncan Robinson buried his first three triples, and the Celtics’ weakness on the defensive boards constantly gave the Heat opportunities…and they took them.

Anyhow, let’s take a look at the individual performances for the Boston Celtics in a crushing Game 2 defeat to Miami:

Kemba Walker: B-

The real Kemba Walker finally stood up in Game 2, after a stretch of disappointing performances for a Celtics team that has largely carried him during the postseason. While Walker was a huge part of Boston’s drop scheme against Philadelphia (h/t Adam Taylor), he was largely neutralized against Toronto as well as in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference finals vs. the Heat.

Walker dropped 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists, but his efficiency wasn’t great. He shot just 4/11 from the 3-point line and committed five turnovers, including a key blunder late that led to a Jimmy Butler transition bucket.

Jayson Tatum: B

Jayson Tatum’s stat line was pedestrian by the meteoric standards he set for himself this offseason with his elite play: 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists. That said, his ability to get to the free-throw line (9/11 from the charity stripe) was buoyed a Cs offense that struggled to generate looks against a superbly executed Miami zone defense.

Tatum didn’t hit the big shots late and was overshadowed by teammate Jaylen Brown in the deciding minutes of a crucial Game 2. While he doesn’t necessarily need to dominate the ball, leading the comeback charge is one of the hallmarks of a generational superstar.

Jaylen Brown: B+

Jaylen Brown’s fourth-quarter shooting is what gives him the highest grade out of any of the three 20+ point scorers Thursday night. Brown single-handedly kept hope alive for Boston as he kept draining crucial 3-pointers that kept the final nail being hammered into their coffin.

On the game, he had 21 points, six rebounds, and two assists–right around his season averages for the 2019-20 campaign. On the bright side, Brown ended up with the best box plus/minus of any Cs starter at -2.

Marcus Smart: C+

He didn’t shoot particularly well (5/13 overall, 2/6 from deep) and turned the ball over as many times as he found a teammate for an assist (4). Marcus Smart has seen better days than Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

After a strong Game 1 performance, Smart took a step back. Now more than ever, Boston Celtics fans are looking for Gordon Hayward to be a savior for the team this series. That’s because Smart has days like this and is better suited for the sixth man role when the team is fully healthy.

Daniel Theis: B

Daniel Theis didn’t do anything spectacular, finishing plays in the paint when his creative teammates were able to get him open looks and grabbing rebounds when he could. He ended up with six points, eight rebounds, and three assists in 31 minutes.

Theis is offensively limited as it is, and will be even more so against Bam Adebayo on him. That said, he could solidify his starting job with improved play and not have fans worry about who is behind him on the depth chart…or who could be.

Brad Wanamaker: B

Brad Wanamaker missed one 3-pointer and one free throw en route to having one of the most efficient games on this entire Boston team. His final line was 7/2/2, and while he did turn the ball over twice, it is clear his veteran know-how is why he is still collecting checks and earning a Boston roster spot.

He has been the very definition of a pleasant surprise this season. Cast off by this very site numerous times over the past year, Wanamaker continues to defy the odds and he is now doing so on basketball’s biggest stage.

Enes Kanter: A-

To go from cold off the bench and marginalized to putting forth offensive output in the blink of an eye is astounding. Enes Kanter’s return to the hardwood in Game 2 was a surprising development, but it proved effective at times when the Boston Celtics couldn’t buy a basket.

Kanter’s back to the basket moves should be effective against any defender, but his rebounding will be crucial against the towering Adebayo. He scored an efficient 14 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the field. If he can give more of that to Brad Stevens in the future, Kanter is not only playable, but he will be an asset in this series against the Heat.

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