The Boston Celtics were eliminated from the 2020 NBA playoffs on Sunday night with a Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics had a fourth quarter lead in every game of the series and still lost four times in six matchups. The team's inability to close games due to bad shot selection, turnovers and other issues was frustrating for fans to watch.
The players are always going to shoulder much of the blame for playoff exits. At the end of the day, they are the people who must execute on the court and make winning plays. But how much blame does Celtics head coach Brad Stevens deserve for the team losing to the Heat?
It was one of many topics discussed on a new episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast with Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper.
"A lot," said Blakely when asked about Stevens' portion of the blame. "There was a graphic that they ran that showed the Celtics in the last five seasons have won more games than any other team without getting to the NBA Finals. And that's telling, that's really telling that he's a good coach, he wins a lot, but the ultimate prize at the end of the day continues to elude him.
"I definitely think he deserves a good chunk of the blame. The rotations are part of it, the fact that he didn't really have a pulse for when to challenge something and when not to challenge something, I thought that was a problem. The fact there were player combinations that he would turn to that would work, and then he would go away from them -- and it felt from an outside perspective that he was overthinking the process that I got all I can out of Grant Williams for these three minutes, let me go back to what I think might work, even though that hasn't worked up to this point. Those are the things you're going to second guess Brad, for some of those decisions and non-decisions made.
"It doesn't mean he's a bad coach, far from it. I still consider him one of the top five or top 10 coaches in the NBA. But I thought in the Miami Heat series it was not Brad's crowning moment. I thought there were far more missed opportunities based on his decisions and non-decisions than we normally see, and part of that I think is the caliber of competition they're playing and also part of that is the (opposing coach) he's dealing with in Erik Spoelstra, who is an elite, top three or top four coach in the NBA when you look at the types of teams he's been able to win with consistently throughout his career.
"There's no question that Brad -- if you're serving up some blame pie -- I think he gets a lion's share of that, no question."
The Celtics weren't able to maximize the production from their big men in the conference finals, and it proved costly against a Heat team that saw All-Star center Bam Adebayo consistently dominate in the paint.
"We talk about the big man rotation, and I question it, too," Draper said. "You see Kanter in the first half and Robert Williams in the first half, but then you don't see them in the second half. Not saying either of those guys were great, but Brad's inability to figure that out -- and I gotta imagine if you're a player, if you're Kanter or Robert Williams, you're like, 'What do I have to do to get on the floor?' They're not even being given legitimate chances to play their way into it. Think about it, Robert Williams, and I'm not saying he's the answer, he played 3:58. That's not enough to truly impact the game. Is that Brad, or Danny (Ainge) for not having great bigs to come off the bench, I don't know. There's a lot of blame to go around when it comes to those bigs."
Also discussed on the new episode: What can the Celtics learn from this series? Will the Celtics get a better chance to reach the NBA Finals? And breaking down Gordon Hayward's struggles.