John Tomase

If Celtics get complacent after rousing Game 1 win, they'll lose Game 2

It's never been easy for this Celtics team in the postseason.

NBC Universal, Inc.

TL;DR: the Celtics will learn nothing from this.

Their miracle comeback in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals is exactly the kind of win that seduces us into believing they've finally figured it out. No more taking an opponent lightly for mystifying stretches, kicking back and watching a big lead evaporate in two minutes, or struggling to execute close and late.

It's tempting to say they're fixed after Jaylen Brown's corner 3 forced overtime, where Jayson Tatum's heroics won it. But if we've learned anything even in the best of times over the last seven years, it's that nothing comes easily, and that momentum is only as good as your next barrage of missed 3-pointers or inexplicably careless turnovers.

We've seen the Celtics "get it" before, only to lose it in short order. Until they hang Banner 18, we are justified in maintaining a healthy skepticism even for Game 2 vs. the Pacers, with recent history as our guide.

Go back to 2018, Tatum's rookie year, and recall that upstart team blowing out LeBron James and the Cavs in the first two games of the conference finals. Bring on the Warriors! The Cavs promptly returned the favor in Cleveland, the C's won Game 5, and then Boston blew two chances to close out the favorites, including a lead with six minutes left in Game 7 at home.

Or jump to the bubble in 2020, when the Celtics were less than a second away from taking a 3-0 lead on the Raptors. OG Anunoby drilled a 3 at the buzzer and a series that looked like a sweep instead went seven grueling games.

Or how about 2022 against Milwaukee, when the Celtics blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Game 5, but still led by one with 14 seconds left after Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a free throw? Bobby Portis put back the rebound and a rousing win became an impossible loss. The Celtics went to Milwaukee with a chance to be eliminated, but Tatum dropped 46 and then Grant Williams went off in Game 7. We can still feel the whiplash.

Or hell, let's not forget every round last year, when the Celtics let the woebegone Hawks send that series back to Atlanta for Game 6, lost Game 1 to the Sixers without Joel Embiid, and then somehow forced Game 7 in the conference finals vs. the Heat after falling behind 3-0.

🔊 Celtics Talk POSTGAME POD: Jrue Holiday, the Jays come up clutch in Game 1 OT win | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Did the Celtics learn any lessons when they led LeBron late in Game 7? Or when they handled the overmatched Raptors for half a series? Or when they let the Bucks off the ropes? Not even Derrick White's miracle putback in Game 6 vs. the Heat could keep them from laying an egg in Game 7 after Tatum sprained his ankle. When the Celtics look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, it kicks them in the teeth.

This team is supposed to be different, but we shouldn't just assume the Pacers are cooked. That's exactly the kind of thinking that afflicts the Celtics, which helps explain how the outgunned Heat and Cavs were each able to steal homecourt in the first two rounds.

Would it shock anyone if Indiana does not, in fact, pack up for the summer and instead escapes with Game 2? The Tyrese Haliburton-led offense is the real deal, and Indy only got stronger as its first two series progressed. Hand Boston a sweep at your own peril.

The C's remain the best team standing, and they should ultimately beat the Pacers, but do we really think it's suddenly going to be easy? It's never easy.

Contact Us