All season long, Celtics coach Joe Mazzola has admired his team’s ability to respond with furious flexibility after poor games. They’ve shown examples of this on each of their previous two tours, usually backing up big performances by two All-Stars in Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Boston couldn’t do that Losing Friday 111-105 Game 2 to heat Which saw Miami overwhelm Tatum with her extended territory. He finished with 34 points and 13 rebounds, but went 0-for-3 in the fourth quarter with two turnovers. He scored his only points in the final 12 minutes on five late free throws. This came after he failed to take a shot in the fourth quarter of Boston’s Game 1 loss.
Brown didn’t fare much better, making just one of his five attempts to enter from the field on fourth down with a turnover. He finished with 16 points on 7-of-23 shooting from the field.
“I think they outdid us,” Brown said. “They beat us tonight and found a way to play all the way up the pitch and we didn’t.”
While Mazzola has been criticized in the series for some of his tweaks and decision making, Tatum said the lack of production falls to the players.
“We got his back, we got his back,” Tatum said. “Joe didn’t miss any shots tonight. He didn’t have any turnovers. I missed putts, he did turnovers. So any time we lose, I’m going to look at what I could have done better so that we can turn the score around.”
As bad a night as the Boston Stars were, the game changed after Williams traded in the fourth quarter with Butler.
After hitting a 3-pointer to give his team a 96-87 lead, Williams yelled in Butler’s direction. Miami’s next drive to the ground was then whistled for a foul as Butler fell on a short jumper with 6:22 to play in the game.
Words were exchanged, and the duo went forehead to forehead, spraying words back and forth before being quickly separated by their teammates and received double technical fouls.
Butler waved a guaranteed free throw to complete the three-point play and returned down the field.
After a fumble by Tatum and a rebound by the Heat, the ball found its way to Butler, who was good at running. It was part of a 15-4 series that included nine points from Butler to give the Heat a 102-100 lead they never relinquished.
“I’m a competitor and I’m going to fight,” Williams told reporters. “He got the best of me tonight and at the end of the day, it’s respect, because I’m not going to run from him. My mom always taught me, and my dad too, you get (your ass) kicked and you don’t come home until you’re in battle again.”
Butler said afterwards that the play got him going.
“I love it. I’m all for it. It makes me key in a lot. It pushes me to win a lot. It makes me smile,” said Butler. “I just don’t know if you’re the best person to talk to.”
The Celtics found that out the hard way.
It ruined what had been a solid night for Williams, who was pushed back into the rotation after sitting out the series opener. He played 25 minutes and had nine points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench.
But Williams said he wouldn’t dwell on how the match ended. He said his focus, and the team’s focus, is to head to Miami with the goal of returning to the series.
“I fought and I will continue to fight,” Williams said. “He’s going to have to make every hard shot the rest of the series, and I wouldn’t turn around and look otherwise because I respect him.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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