Will they ever learn?
Against Toronto in the second round of the playoffs, Boston didn't maximize its play during key moments.
By failing to do so, the Celtics transformed a series on the verge of a Boston sweep into a grueling, seven-game battle royale that they were fortunate enough to survive with minimal damage.
Now in the first game of their best-of-seven series with Miami for the right to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics once again shrunk during the biggest moments of the game, which ended with a 117-113 overtime loss to the Heat.
Before folks beat up on Jayson Tatum too much for his attempted dunk on Bam Adebayo, let’s be clear on something: That’s easily one of the all-time great blocks in a playoff game.
It should have never come to Boston needing Tatum to finish at that point in overtime just to force a second overtime period.
There’s a laundry list of problems that hindered Boston’s chances at winning long before Tatum’s late-game rejection.
You can’t talk about what went wrong with the Boston Celtics in Game 1 and not begin with Kemba Walker, who hasn’t looked right for a while now.
The explosion and burst that we’ve seen him utilize to create space for himself on offense was nowhere to be found most of Game 1, where he needed 19 shots (and six makes) to score 19 points.
Walker isn’t about to make any excuses for his poor shooting of late, but remember that Walker had knee issues in the past and was on a load management regimen upon Boston entering the Orlando bubble with the Celtics.
So it’s unclear if in addition to the strong defense of Toronto and now Miami, Walker’s health is also factoring into his struggles.
If he were the only issue, the Celtics still might be up 1-0 in this series.
The Celtics have a more fundamental problem that they need to work through, and that’s late-game execution.
Missing shots, that’s part of the game.
We get it.
But the Celtics were looking to score far too often in one-on-one matchups, the kind of situations that are a sharp contrast to ball-moving and turning away good shots for great ones -- the kind of offense we have seen from them most of this season that has been very successful.
There’s no rhyme or reason to why the Celtics have shown a tendency lately to get away from the style of play that’s working and start to settle for shots.
You can throw in the great Game 1 from Marcus Smart (26 points) and Brad Wanamaker's strong play off the bench (11 points, six assists, five steals), as positives to take away from Tuesday's loss.
But at this point in the season, there are only two sentiments that matter following a game -- winning and losing.
We have seen the Celtics do quite a bit of winning this season before the league hit pause, as well as afterward in the seeding games and currently in the playoffs.
Several tried-and-true measures have been at the heart of that success, but they've inexplicably gone away during the most inopportune moments to questionable shot selection and defensive lapses.
These are hard, tough-to-swallow lessons for sure -- lessons that seek answers but instead only bring about more questions with one standing out among them all.
Will they ever learn?