BOSTON -- After a dreadful collapse in Game 1, the Celtics seem to be a pretty confident bunch heading into Thursday night's Game 2 against the Miami Heat. It's understandable, because the Celtics don't have to fix too much to bounce back and tie the series.
The fixes are obvious. Don't turn over the ball 16 times again, including eight times in one quarter. Don't let the Heat push you around. Don't come out of halftime playing like you're walking through the Everglades.
The Celtics did just about everything right in the first half Tuesday night, and then completely fell on their faces in the third quarter. Jimmy Butler did his thing and got bucket after bucket for Miami, and everyone on the Heat out muscled the Celtics on every front. To make matters even worse, Boston forgot how to take care of the basketball and turned it over eight times, leading to a dozen easy points for Miami. The Heat outscored the Celtics 39-14 in the frame, and that was that.
But the Celtics are confident because they've been pretty great at bouncing back from a loss this postseason. Boston has not lost back-to-back games in the playoffs, and they followed up all three of their previous losses with a convincing win. Their average margin of victory in those games has been 14.6 points.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were both incredibly honest and accountable following Tuesday's frustrating defeat. Both know they have to be better going forward. Both are confident that they will be better going forward. And there is evidence that backs that up.
Overall, Tatum wasn't terrible Tuesday night. He was terrible in the third quarter, with no made baskets and six turnovers. But overall he was solid in Game 1, finishing with 29 points to lead the way for Boston.
He's played some of his best games following a Celtics loss, averaging 35 points off 57.5 shooting following a defeat. Tatum had his best game following a crushing Game 5 home loss to the Bucks last round, scoring 46 points with the Celtics facing elimination.
He knows that to have such a performance on Thursday night, he needs to take much better care of the ball.
"Obviously, I don't want to turn the damn ball over and [stuff] like that," he said. "Throughout the course of a game things happen and they go on runs. That's what they did. Throughout the course of the playoffs, we've done a great job of responding to runs, but for whatever reason, we didn't today.
"I'll be the first one to say that I'll take the blame for that," Tatum added. "I got to lead better. I got to play better, especially in those moments. I'm just looking forward to responding next game."
Ahead of Game 6 against the Bucks, Tatum said that he was excited to fight off elimination and get a chance to shine when his team needed him most. He'll get another shot at it Thursday night.
Likewise, Brown has to be much better than he was in Game 1, and he knows that too. He only had two turnovers, but he was often out of control with his dribble. His passing wasn't crisp, and his shot was off for much of the evening. He needed a late-game flurry -- which made things somewhat interesting in the fourth quarter -- to reach his 24 points.
"I just got to be able to make the right plays and see the game and read the game. And tonight wasn't my better game doing that. I got to handle those situations a little bit better," Brown admitted. "I got a rhythm going later in the fourth quarter. And I think that was good carryover into the next game. But I definitely got to be better for our team."
Following Boston's Game 1 loss to the Bucks, it was Brown who propelled the team to their Game 2 win. He scorched Milwaukee for 25 first-half points and finished with 30 as the Celtics coasted to a win.
Brown should look to find his shot early in Game 2 against the Heat, but most of his focus will be on slowing down Butler. The potential return of Marcus Smart should help the Celtics in that department, but it will mostly fall on Brown to keep Butler from getting back into "Jimmy Buckets" mode.
It's going to take a complete team effort for the Celtics to steal a win in Miami, and a complete 48 minutes of great basketball. But it will all start with Boston's two stars at the top. They need to be the players that they've been this postseason when adversity hit, and the leaders that they sounded like after Tuesday night's defeat.
for more features.