MIAMI — The Boston Celtics are a staff of long-distance runners.
For years, former Celtics president Danny Ainge employed a marketing consultant that may determine draft picks and free brokers’ “mind sorts” beneath the idea that sure character traits made for higher gamers. Ainge and that system are gone, however the Celtics — be it by meticulous scouting, success or, extra doubtless, a mixture of each — have a collective character kind.
This was the fourth time this postseason — third on the highway — that the Celtics responded to a loss with a win, defeating groups by a mean of 17.3 factors in these video games, based on ESPN Stats & Information analysis.
That’s on tempo to be the fifth-highest margin of victory after a loss in a single postseason all time, amongst groups to play in not less than three such video games. The 4 groups forward of the Celtics all gained the title. (This season’s Miami staff is sixth on the record.)
Since late January, when this staff discovered its stride, Boston is now 10-1 coming off a defeat. And the loss has an asterisk; it got here on an evening when the Celtics rested their starters.
This specific group appears predisposed to this form of resilience. It is in its nature. Collectively, the Celtics are like an awesome marathoner, whose psychological acuity and guile typically equals and even exceeds the bodily presents.
Their coach, Ime Udoka, has a level-headed demeanor however has labored to instill confidence in his staff all through the season. Though he is not afraid to problem or flat-out name out his gamers, he does it with out counting on emotion. Last week, when the Celtics appeared to be in severe jeopardy in Milwaukee down 3-2 to the defending champion Bucks — a staff that had gained eight straight closeout video games — Udoka maintained an unassuming confidence.
He believed, accurately because it turned out, that his trailing Celtics have been truly in a wonderful place and relayed that to his staff, which responded by successful a large Game 6 to even the sequence. He did so once more earlier than Game 2 this week, specializing in a handful of positives that he recognized from the Game 1 loss, together with that Boston gained three of the 4 quarters.
They gained all 4 quarters Thursday, the victory aided by historic capturing. The final time the Celtics shot greater than 50% from the sphere, 50% from 3-point vary and 90% from the foul line in a playoff recreation was in 1987. That Larry Bird/Kevin McHale-led staff took six 3-pointers that night time. In Game 2, the 2022 mannequin took 40. Great capturing makes everybody look good however the confidence Boston performed with wasn’t simply success.
“We didn’t play as poorly as last game showed,” Udoka mentioned. “We saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack.”
Tatum, for instance, had the identical posture following his 4-of-19 capturing recreation in a disastrous Game 3 in opposition to the Bucks as he did when he scored 46 factors to outlive that sequence’ Game 6. After a poor second half in Game 1 in opposition to the Heat — he had six turnovers within the third quarter alone — Tatum began Game 2 with an explosive 20-point first half.
“I think the sign of a good team is how you respond after losses, especially the tough ones,” Tatum mentioned after ending with 27 factors. “It shows the character of the group.”
Brown had one of many worst playoff video games of his profession within the sequence opener in opposition to the Bucks however adopted that up by scoring 25 factors within the first half of Game 2. He has been a constant producer from that second and has even began a routine of getting on the court docket for further work three hours earlier than each tip to work on his capturing.
Marcus Smart is a voracious competitor. More emotional than his laid-back teammates and head coach, he lets it drive his play. He has performed via damage all through the postseason, and in Game 2 he got here again after lacking the primary contest due to a sprained foot to attain 24 factors together with 12 assists in opposition to just one turnover, a significant distinction after turnovers crushed the Celtics in Game 1. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year additionally hounded Jimmy Butler, holding him to simply 5 shot makes an attempt on 37 performs, per ESPN Stats & Information.
In a great illustration of how Smart operates, he began the sport making simply one in all his first 10 photographs. He then made seven of his final 10.
“I’m the youngest of four boys,” Smart mentioned. “My whole life, I’ve got to fight … you ain’t got no choice but to be tough.”
The identical rings true up and down the roster. Veteran large man Al Horford is Boston’s steadiest presence. Reserves Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard, each undersized and missed in numerous methods of their younger careers, convey a mixture of vitality and relentlessness. After a poor displaying in Game 1, Williams had 19 factors off the bench in Game 2. Pritchard, after being attacked by the Heat on offense in Game 1, scored 10 factors and competed exhausting on protection, resulting in a team-best plus-39 efficiency.
The Celtics aren’t the proper staff; they’ve weaknesses and have proven they are often pushed to the brink of elimination. But good luck truly taking 4 out of seven, which the Heat will now must do with out home-court benefit to win the sequence.
The manner this group is wired, it nearly appears as in the event that they embrace a loss. And if you perceive their personalities, that logic begins to shine via.
“I think we just had a better presence about ourselves,” Tatum mentioned. “They kicked our butt last [game], and we just wanted to respond.”