Celtics #2: Hustle
The Heat are not winning this series because of pure talent. They are winning with hard work, grind, and determination. The Celtics are not the same kind of grit-and-grind squad – they almost play as if they are expecting their talent to carry them at times – but it is time to get serious and do all the dirty work.
Game 3 was a must-win game, but it almost looked as if the Celtics weren’t aware of that. Not a single one of them rose to the challenge. Gabe Vincent scored more points than Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined. The Heat simply outworked Boston for the third time in a row. They already took apart the Bucks, sent them home in disarray, and then handily beat the Knicks. They already exceeded expectations, and yet they are the ones playing like they have something to prove as their lives depend on these games.
The Celtics are losing almost all the hustle stats. Miami recovers more loose balls, draws more charges, and deflects more passes. Granted, Miami beats most playoff teams in these categories, but the Celtics are the ones playing them, so they need to step up their game. Grant Williams is the only Celtic who has shown some fire and competitiveness so far.
This is not just about the little things, either. In the first two games, the Celtics lost the rebounding battle. Game 1 was still close, but in Game 2 they got their behinds kicked. Their two big men only combined for 7 rebounds. Adebayo alone had 17 for the Heat. As a result of that as well as of steals and turnovers, Miami took 92 shots compared to the Celtics 79. That has to do with hustle, too. This series is all about going the extra mile, pushing, and competing until the last second even when your team is winning.
Especially in Game 3, the Celtics should have worked hard than ever before. Instead, they showed little urgency, little desperateness, and pretty much already waved the white flag after the third quarter. In their last chance to save their season, the Celtics need to hustle and finally start doing all the little things. There may not be much glory in it, but it is the only way to beat this Heat team. They will eat anyone who does not work hard alive.