C’s fall apart in fourth quarter, trail series 0-2

Game 2 takeaways: C’s can’t hold off scrappy Heat in fourth quarter originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Another crushing loss at home will send the Boston Celtics to South Beach down 2-0 in their Eastern Conference Finals series vs. the Miami Heat.

It was a back-and-forth Game 2 at TD Garden. Boston took a 12-point lead in the second quarter after a 26-5 run, but Miami answered with a 26-10 run of its own to take a four-point lead into the half.

The C’s, whose Game 1 loss was defined by a brutal third quarter, outscored the Heat 33-21 in the frame this time around. But Miami delivered the final punch in the fourth quarter, ending the game on a 26-9 run to escape with the 111-105 victory.

Jimmy Butler again delivered a clutch performance with several big shots down the stretch. He led the Heat with 27 points while Caleb Martin stepped off the bench with 25. Bam Adebayo chipped in 22 points with 16 rebounds.

The Celtics spoiled a strong outing from Jayson Tatum (34 points). Jaylen Brown was Boston’s next-highest scorer with 16, but he shot just 7-of-23 from the floor.

A critical Game 3 is set for 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday in Miami. First, here are three quick takeaways from Friday’s devastating defeat.

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C’s coach Joe Mazzulla’s decision to bench Grant Williams was questioned after the Game 1 loss. Given Williams’ strong performance vs. Miami in last year’s series, it was perplexing to see him ride the bench for the entirety of the series opener. Boston could have used his defense against Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Mazzulla made the adjustment in Game 2 and — at least initially — it paid off.

Williams checked in late in the first quarter and his energy was contagious. The Celtics went on a 19-4 run after he entered the game. he was a +15 in his first five minutes of action.

It was nothing but positives from Williams until he poked the bear in the fourth quarter.

With 6:22 left in the game and the C’s up nine, Williams got into it with Jimmy Butler. They went face to face and exchanged words in a moment that fired up the TD Garden crowd.

But that moment turned out to be the turning point in the loss. Butler led the comeback as the Heat went on a 26-9 run after the scuffle.

According to ESPN, the Heat shot 6-for-7 with Williams as the primary defender in the fourth quarter, including 4-for-5 from Butler.

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Williams made a positive impact with his energy for most of the night. He finished with nine points, two rebounds, two assists, and a block in 26 minutes. Unfortunately for him, his effort will be overshadowed by a back-and-forth with Butler that backfired.

Not Jaylen Brown’s night

The Celtics will hope Jaylen Brown finds his groove in Miami after a rough Game 2.

Brown struggled on both ends of the floor on Friday night. He made only one of his seven shots in the first quarter and it didn’t get much better in the second as he finished 3-of-12 and was a team-worst -20 in the first half.

In the third quarter, Brown showed signs of life with a couple of big shots but couldn’t stay consistent. He ended with 16 points on 7-of-23 shooting, including just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Defensively, it was a struggle for Brown against Heat reserves Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson. That can’t happen if the C’s are to climb out of their 0-2 hole.

Another quiet fourth from Jayson Tatum

Tatum is probably the last Celtics player that deserves criticism for the Game 2 loss. The 25-year-old was the best player on the floor for most of the night, tallying 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting while bringing down 12 boards and dishing eight assists.

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But for the second straight game, Tatum was held in check in crunch time. After not attempting a shot in the fourth quarter of Game 1, he had only five points with one shot attempt in the final frame of Game 2.

Miami has made a concerted effort to shut down Tatum with the game on the line, and it has paid off. The four-time All-Star will need to find a way to adjust in Game 3, otherwise the C’s could find themselves on the verge of being swept.

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