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Celtics offense sputters, ending in Jayson Tatum’s ugly final play against Heat: ‘I can’t let us down like that’

Celtics offense sputters, ending in Jayson Tatum’s ugly final play against Heat: ‘I can’t let us down like that’

Playing without Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Malcolm Brogdon, the Boston Celtics were bound to struggle against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, but it was the timing of their struggles that proved to be most damaging.

Boston battled well throughout the first half and, in the third quarter, grew a comfortable lead over Miami that maxed out at 14 points. The fourth quarter is when everything changed. Erik Spoelstra and the Heat rolled out a zone defense that gave Boston fits, the Celtics finished with 13 points, and everything fell apart.

“Just manage the zone offense for that segment,” head coach Joe Mazzulla told CLNS Media, taking blame for not organizing the offense. “They went to their zone, and we just didn’t have the spacing we needed. We didn’t get the looks we should have. I thought we had the right personnel on the floor against the zone. We just didn’t get the looks we should have gotten on a few of those, and that led to some of the transition.”

The Celtics shot just 5-of-21 from the field and 2-of-10 from three-point range in the final frame, allowing Miami to rip off a 15-0 run. From there, they were able to sustain the lead and continuously disrupt Boston’s offense with their zone defense.

Through the first three quarters, Boston tallied 18 assists on 27 made baskets, shooting an efficient 50.9% from the floor and 36.4% from distance. Even more impressively, they held the Heat to just 34.7% shooting overall and 36.0% from deep. Jayson Tatum and Derrick White had over 20 points apiece, and the offense, despite missing three starters and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, was running as smoothly as one would hope.

Miami’s zone was simply too much, and even Tatum, who had thrived throughout the contest, failed to handle it.

“I think we got some good looks. I think for myself, I gotta make quicker decisions,” Tatum told CLNS Media post-game. “I think a couple of times, I held it too long, they got to load up, crowd me, and have a guy at the nail. So, it’s on me in those situations to make quicker decisions. Because when I do make quicker decisions, I feel like I’m extremely hard to guard. So, especially when we’re in a drought or late-game situations – just overall, I gotta make better decisions to give ourselves a chance, really.”

Tatum shot 1-of-4 in the fourth quarter, with…

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