Sure, it’s rather obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
The Celtics have lived and died because of a number of aspects throughout the playoffs — three point shooting, ball movement, defensive intensity, etc. — but Boston’s performance in the Eastern Conference finals has come down to whether or not it turns the ball over. The Celtics turned the ball over eight times during a horrid third quarter in Game 1 and allowed the Miami Heat to score 33 points off 24 turnovers (19 steals) in Game 3.
So, with a series-altering Game 5 at FTX Arena on Wednesday night, limiting those turnovers has become an obvious (and important) focal point.
“Our thing is take care of the ball, not playing the crowd and kind of picking the gym apart. The thing that stood out to me and the staff is, when we’re looking at the numbers, specifically, it’s 39 turnovers in the two losses, 18 in the two wins,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said during a video conference Wednesday morning. So those things stand out.
“It’s just not playing the crowd, making the easy pass and seeing all our outlets,” Udoka continued. “We showed that on tape. Guys see it at the end of the game. When we do it well, we win. If not, we’re in trouble.”
Celtics First Team All-NBA honoree Jayson Tatum highlighted those turnovers, along with getting off to a strong start, as two aspects the group needs to heavily focus on. Tatum, specifically, will have to limit his individual giveaways as he was responsible for a team-high seven turnovers in Boston’s Game 1 loss and six more in the Celtics’ deflating defeat in Game 3.
“Turnovers, we have to limit those as much as we can,” Tatum said. “And I think just starting the game off better. Digging yourself a 20-point hole at this point of the season, is obviously really tough because you’re playing against a really, really good team.”
The Celtics evened up the series and turned it into a best-of-three given their rout in Game 4. Boston took a 24-point lead at the half in large part because the group turned the ball over just three times.
Boston, a two-point road favorite, will look to take its first lead of the series Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.