The Celtics accumulated an NBA-best 64-win regular season, earning a No. 1 seed finish in the Eastern Conference, home-court advantage for the playoffs, and a favorable first-round matchup — all of which, Boston worked to squander throughout Wednesday night’s Game 2 loss at TD Garden.

Before meeting with the Miami Heat at center court, the game plan was universally known for the Jimmy Butler-less underdogs: heave 3-point shots left and right, and hope for the best. Plain and simple. Yet, as elementary as Miami’s scheme was, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra blueprinted a seemingly back-breaking calculus-level equation to which Boston had no answer.

The Heat drained 13-of-24 threes in the first half, only two nights removed from hitting 12 throughout Game 1. In the second half, they rode that same horse, adding another 10 to set a new franchise playoff record (23). Boston knew what to expect, watched the first two quarters repeat, and did nothing about it, allowing Miami to steal its lunch money and ride the momentum of its 35-point fourth quarter in Game 1 — begging the obvious question: what is wrong with the Celtics and their part-time pride?

“They’re physical. They make it tough and stuff like that,” Jaylen Brown said. “They wanna push catches out, especially if the whistle is in their favor. They thrive themselves on trying to make everything tough so we just gotta fight for our spacing. We got to be just as physical and look forward to it. Own our space, catch the ball with physicality, don’t look to the ref to make a call, and embrace it. It’s a mindset. It’s a lifestyle. You gotta just embrace it.”

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Boston’s star power, which helped tie its own franchise postseason record for threes made (22), in Game 1, paled in comparison to Miami’s courage and determination. Caleb Martin collected the majority share of boos from Boston’s home crowd, and still scored 21 points while going 5-for-6 from three. The Heat afforded themselves the right to allow Brown to combine with Jayson Tatum and score 61 points.

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Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla got exposed on the sidelines by Spoelstra’s experience advantage, lacking the necessary preparation to adjust and revive Boston’s life-less perimeter defense.

The Heat needed a record-breaking hot hand from three to escape with a 111-101 Game 2 finish, however, the Celtics couldn’t have made it any easier. Mazzulla’s starters were caught flat-footed, late picking up Miami’s screens, and got torn to bits running a zone defense. Many of the Heat’s 3-point looks were uncontested, hampering Boston’s ability to get ahead in transition and pile on pressure that the team (clearly) couldn’t handle.

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As quickly as the Celtics sparked a 14-0 run to begin the series on Sunday, Boston let go of the rope and sat back allowing Miami’s confidence to soar as the series heads its way for Game 3.

“We just wanted it more, took a lot of pride in our matchups, and it just came down to toughness and will to win,” Miami rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr. said, per team-provided video. “… We’ve been in that situation many times. We’ve also let that situation slip away so I think it’s been great growth for our team and how we’ve shown improvement.”

Jaquez Jr. added: “We kind of got punched in the mouth (in Game 1), and then I thought we responded great.”

For a rookie player to confidently claim that the Celtics lacked desire and will, coupled with Butler’s social media antics, prove that Miami isn’t fearful. The Heat and Celtics are undergoing their fourth playoff battle in the last five years, with mental and physical toughness stumping Boston being the primary constant each time. Coming up short (embarrassingly) to Miami in last year’s conference finals prompted Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens to bring Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday to Boston — both of which were non-factors in Game 2.

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Repeating the same mistakes — turnovers, defensive urgency, and killer offensive instinct — that backfired over 10 months ago, with both teams having trended in opposite directions, is downright inexcusable.

If the Celtics are too scared to assert themselves against the playoff sneak-in Heat, what will other teams in the East think if Boston advances? Can anyone push Tatum, Brown, and Mazzulla around? Is it impossible to close out a series in five games without lows overshadowing the highs?

While Boston has plenty of making up to do, Miami isn’t getting ahead of itself moving forward.

“One game is one game. Just like this win, it’s just one win,” Spoelstra told reporters, per team-provided video. “Series are potentially long and they’re tough. And you have to stay emotionally and mentally stable throughout all of it. And you just have to focus on competing at a high level together, doing things that lead to winning, keeping your emotions in check — which all of it is easier said than done. But it was a very good response.”

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Now it’s up to the Celtics to dust off the disappointment and have their turn to respond on Saturday night in Miami.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images