For a good portion of this NBA season, many thought the Boston Celtics were the favorites to win the world championship.
They had a 57–25 record, one win short of the league’s best record, and were second in both the offensive and defensive ratings.
After the Celtics lost in the NBA Finals last season, many thought they would be on a mission to claim their 18th title this year.
But now they are trailing 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat after being shut out in Game 3 on Sunday, after losing the first two games at home.
Reserve guard Malcolm Brogdon said the team has had trouble maintaining an identity throughout the season.
Malcolm Brogdon says Boston’s identity “has been gone throughout the season.” He said that playing with a team as consistent as Miami has caused the Celtics real trouble.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 22, 2023
It is an axiom in all sports that if a team has no identity, it will not win any result.
Last season, when Boston came within two wins, it seemed like they had a solid identity.
They won with defense (they were first in defensive rating last season), slowing the pace and keeping scores low, and it was a consistent style and identity they stuck to.
Another concern this time is the dangerous lack of fight for the Celtics.
They fell behind in Game 3 by a large margin at halftime, but dug themselves an even deeper hole afterward, trailing by 33 points at one point.
Many felt that the Celtics had simply given up.
Celtics teams that were title contenders in past decades—from the Bill Russell era to the “Big Four” era of the late 2000s—would have fought hard to the bitter end in this type of situation, and it’s the quality of this year’s iteration. There is a shortage.
Celtics drop a sad video after Game 3 loss