Coming off a huge blowout win over the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics were on the other side of a rout as the Miami Heat handed them a brutal 115-99 loss.
The Heat were up as much as 26 in the third quarter and while the Celtics were able to cut Miami’s lead down as low as 8, the team’s all-around performance was mostly abysmal for the majority of the game.
The performances of Kyrie Irving (22 points), Marcus Smart (18 points), and Robert Williams (+15; one of only two Celtics players with a positive plus/minus) were solid, but the rest of the team didn’t do much. Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford were particularly terrible and their collective shooting performances were nearly impossible for the Celtics to overcome. They finished with what may be one of the worst shooting performances from a trio of teammates this season:
Al Horford: 1/8 (12.5%)
Terry Rozier: 1/8 (12.5%)
Jaylen Brown: 1/5 (20%)
Dwyane Wade led all Miami scorers with 19 points followed closely by Josh Richardson who finished with 18. Justise Winslow had a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists as the Heat continue their successful experiment with him as the team’s starting point guard in Goran Dragic’s absence.
Brad Stevens said after the game that he felt the Celtics hitting tough, contested shots to start the game stopped them from looking for better shots in the rest of the first half. “We kept shooting tough, long, contested shots without much real attack until the middle of the third quarter and I think that showed in the fact we had 7 assists at halftime.” Kyrie Irving when asked whether this game was just a bad game or a sign of the Celtics problems still not being entirely resolved said, “When things get tough, we just gotta be able to weather the storm. Tonight I don’t think we did a great job of that, being able to withstand certain runs, being able to execute our offense and defensively being in the right spots.”
The back to back on the road was a tough spot for the Celtics, but certainly not as tough as it’s being made out to be. The Celtics starters got plenty of rest in their blowout win over Indiana and a flight from Boston to Miami isn’t leaping any time zones. As far as road back to back’s in the NBA go, the Celtics couldn’t ask for a better setup.
The Heat game proved that the Celtics inconsistencies aren’t going away anytime soon. Even if they score 135 points in one game that doesn’t mean their problems are solved. There’s no easy answer to why they can’t perform at a high level on a more regular basis. The Celtics problem this season hasn’t been reaching their ceiling, it’s been maintaining that level of play.
It seems as though anytime the Celtics have a big game or some sort of winning streak, ones that lead fans and media to believe they’ve “figured it out”, it’s immediately followed by an equally discouraging stretch to match. Following their huge overtime win against the Raptors in November, they lost their next 3 games to the Jazz, Hornets, and Knicks. After their 8-game winning streak, they lost 3 in a row including a home game against Phoenix. After they won a blowout against Indiana they followed it up by getting stomped by the Miami Heat. With such a continuously fluctuating level of play, it’s getting harder and harder to truly judge where the Celtics are as a team.
Even if they put together another great win in their next game or a stretch of wins, who’s to say they won’t follow it up with another game like they had against the Heat? It’s starting to look like the Celtics “problems” aren’t going anywhere this season. The Celtics will continue to play well at times, but their issues will be hiding in the background waiting to re-emerge at any moment. It’s January and the Celtics are still playing like this. Their inconsistencies aren’t going to be fixed, they’re here to stay. It’s something that will keep coming back all season long. Brad Stevens and the rest of the team haven't found an answer to their issues yet and it doesn't feel like they're going to anytime soon.
Photo: (Joel Auerbach - AP Photo)