The Boston Celtics played like a broken team in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night against the Miami Heat.
They were disjointed in all areas on the court and the results backed that up with the Heat steamrolling the Celtics en route to a 128-102 victory at Kaseya Center to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
It’s clear that even though they are so close to another NBA Finals appearance, the Celtics severely lacked attention to detail against a less-talented Heat squad. Joe Mazzulla shouldered the blame for the abysmal performance, but there seemed to be more at play in the defeat than the Celtics head coach not having his charges ready.
Mazzulla confirmed that much when asked if there is a disconnect between him and Celtics players in the conference finals.
“Yes, where I have to be better to figure out what this team needs to make sure that they’re connected, they’re physical and they’re together by the time we step on the floor,” Mazzulla told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage.
What led to the disconnect? Mazzulla is still trying to figure that out.
“Not sure,” Mazzulla responded.
The Celtics trailed by as much as 33 points late in the third quarter — the Heat outscored them, 32-17, in the stanza — and Mazzulla waved the proverbial white flag by emptying his bench to begin the final frame.
It’s possible the Celtics have tuned out Mazzulla and others as they clearly aren’t playing as a cohesive unit on the floor. The defensive play, which was the backbone to Boston’s Finals run a year ago, has disappeared. The Heat shot a blistering 54.3% (19-for-35) from beyond the arc in the win. And while Jayson Tatum sees the disconnect on the defensive end, his messaging could cover several areas of the Celtics at the moment.
“We got to be connected more,” Tatum told reporters as seen on NBC Sports Boston postgame coverage. “Five guys all on the same page, competing at the same level, talking. And just being there for one another. Every possession is not perfect. You’re going to get beat. Mistakes happen. We just have to do a better job of being there for one another, having each other’s back and being a little bit more connected on defense.”