Tatum, Brown must be more aggressive offensively for Celtics to win Game 7 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
BOSTON — The Celtics were in a prime position to beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
Derrick White’s 3-pointer gave the Celtics a 97-94 lead with 4:43 remaining. The TD Garden crowd was loud and on its feet as the Heat called a full timeout. It seemed like the Celtics, after trailing for most of the night, were finally going to pull away and celebrate a conference title.
The stage was set for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to close the deal and finally break through to the championship round.
Instead, the Heat finished the game on a 17-6 run to secure a 111-103 win and stave off elimination. Heat star Jimmy Butler led the way, scoring seven of his 47 points — the second-most ever by a player facing elimination — over the final two minutes.
Perhaps most frustrating part of that stretch for the Celtics was the lack of aggressiveness offensively from their two stars.
Butler gives C’s bulletin-board material ahead of Game 7
Tatum and Brown combined for only one shot attempt over the final 4:43 of the game — a Tatum floater that cut Miami’s lead to 105-101 with 1:08 remaining. Brown missed two crucial free throws with the score tied 99-99. Tatum turned the ball over with the Celtics trailing 102-99 and 1:48 left on the clock.
One shot attempt apiece for Tatum and Brown during the most important quarter of the season is nowhere near good enough.
“I think it’s just the flow of the game, how the game was going,” Tatum said. “I’ll have to watch the film. I think just being out there and the feel of the game — drawing a lot of attention. Trying to find a mismatch, they send a double team and just find the open man. I think it was just kind of how the flow of the game was going.”
“We got to keep making the right play,” Brown said. “They were doubling me on the matchups that I had in the second half. Made the right play, Derrick White got going. But just finding the right balance, being more assertive, you don’t want to force it if you’ve got two guys on you. I thought I made a lot of right plays tonight, but not enough for us to win.”
It’s important to make the right play and find the open man when the double team comes. But the passes out of the double teams were often tipped or not crisp enough to keep the offense moving fast enough. It prevented the Celtics from attacking the numbers advantage they had elsewhere on the court.
The Celtics have to find ways to get Tatum and Brown more involved offensively in the crucial moments of a potential closeout game. Whether it’s running certain set plays, getting them shots coming off screens, passing quickly out of the double team and then getting the ball right back, etc.
Boston has other guys who can knock down shots. White was that guy in Game 6. He scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. His three 3-pointers over the final 12 minutes kept the Celtics in the game.
But for the C’s to emerge from Miami with a Game 7 win on Sunday night, they need their two-best players to lead the way late in the fourth quarter.
Both of them are capable of doing it. Tatum scored 46 points in a must-win Game 6 on the road against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2. Brown scored 13 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 against the Heat on Wednesday night.
Tatum and Brown are at their best when they’re attacking the defense, creating open shots and getting to the free throw line. They need to play with that aggressive mentality in Game 7 or the Celtics’ season could come to a very disappointing finish.