Your Morning Dump… Where the Celtics must win tonight or (get ready to) go home

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Your Morning Dump… Where the Celtics must win tonight or (get ready to) go home

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Your Morning Dump… Where the Celtics must win tonight or (get ready to) go home

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Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

If there was a sliver of consolation for the Boston Celtics on Friday, it probably could have been found within the understanding that a 2-0 lead for the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals doesn’t guarantee anything.

The Celtics learned that two years ago against Cleveland.

And Milwaukee learned the same last season against Toronto.

Boston.com: Celtics, Heat agree: A 2-0 lead in East finals means nothing

Those are good examples of teams that climbed out of the 0-2 hole, and there was almost another even more recently.

A few days ago, I had talked myself into the notion that these Celtics had just as good a chance as anybody to win it all. I went so far as to imagine what a duck boat parade would look like in the age of COVID-19 (if they even would have a parade).

That may have been premature.

Tonight, the Cs will either make it a series or become dead men walking. Either way, they’ll still be behind.

Listen, there’s no home court advantage (the Celts have lost their last five “home games” and won six straight “road games”), so running off a streak of wins might not be as difficult as in the real-world NBA. If the Celtics can direct their fury toward Miami instead of each other, this could become a hell of a series. So far, however, the confident Heat have clearly been the hungrier squad. Boston hasn’t matched that at all.

Here’s the thing, every single person in Boston’s locker room deserves a slice of that bitter blame pie. From the coach to players, everyone could be doing a bit more to get Boston to the finish line of these games without the sort of lapses that leaves their fans ready to rumble, too.

NBC Sports Boston: The Celtics had plenty of reasons to be upset, but what happens next?

Besides finding their intensity, the Celtics must move the ball. There’s been plenty of analysis about why Boston has blown big leads in two straight games, but it’s simple: pass the ball.

In the first half of Game 2, they had 13 assists and scored 60 points. In the second half, 6 assists and 41 points. You don’t have to be Red Auerbach to see the connection. And ball movement is what will defeat the problematic Miami zone defense.

Last concern: the Celtics’ playoff schedule so far has been to play every other day, and that’s worked beautifully. But the NBA, fixing something that isn’t broken, has scheduled Game 4 for Wednesday night. That’s a four-day break.

Those extra days will help Hayward’s recovery, but it’s also scary to consider the emotions that might bubble up if the Celtics fall behind 0-3 and then have to wait four days to take on a hopeless task. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Maybe I’m wearing green goggles, but if the Celtics make a stand tonight, and if Hayward returns and makes an impact, there’s still a chance. Their five playoff losses have been by a combined 19 points. The largest defeat was by 7 points. They’ve been in every game. We have every reason to keep the faith.

Related – NBC Sports Boston: Celtics’ pursuit of answers vs. Heat creates more questions about who they are

Herald: Infighting just one of the problems Celtics need to solve

The Athletic: Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart have quarreled before. They usually move past it

Boston Sports Journal: Robb: In wake of locker room angst, Marcus Smart needs to hold himself accountable too

On Page 2: Waiting for Gordo

The team upgraded him from “out” to “doubtful” before officially scratching him before Game 2. This move makes it seem like there’s a chance Hayward would play in Game 3, and it would likely depend on how he feels tomorrow. If he can’t play in Game 3, there’s a strong chance he plays in Game 4 because there is a three day layoff between. […]

The Celtics need another weapon like Hayward to stretch the Miami defense. The Heat’s zone defense is the talk of the NBA after last night’s game, and Hayward’s ability to shoot over the top of it or operate in the middle of it as a facilitator could make a big difference in this series.

“I think our team is at our best when I’m aggressive and attacking. Just it opens the court for everyone else,” Hayward said last month. “A lot of times when I’m attacking it doesn’t necessarily end up with me scoring, but it can be a pass or an extra or something else. But I think just getting more paint threats for our team is good. So just trying to attack.”

MassLive: Boston Celtics upgrade Gordon Hayward to ‘questionable’ for Game 3 vs. Miami Heat

When Hayward got hurt in the first round, the conventional wisdom was the Celtics would still get by Philly (they did) but would miss him vs. Toronto (they did again). But it’s clear that GH is missed most of all in this Miami series. Anyone who thought maybe Boston was better without Gordo – and there are people who believe that – should by now realize that’s talk show hogwash.

If Hayward is even borderline tonight, I hope he plays, if only to shake off the rust for the rest of the series. He might not play many minutes and he might not be too effective, but he’ll at least be someone the Miami defense has to pay attention to. And if he’s actually effective, that will be a bonus.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Play him.

And, finally… Periodic reminder

If life was fair, this tweet would’ve included Kevin Garnett, who, in his first season with the Celtics, drove them to the 2008 championship. KG was named DPOY, but despite leading a complete turnaround (from 24 wins in 2007 to 66 in ’08), he finished third in the MVP voting.

Third.

I’ll never pass up an opportunity to remind one and all that this was some major BS. Voters whiffed on the choice, and that is indisputable. Yeah, it’s been 12 years but, also yeah, I’m still bitter.

The Rest of the Links:

Globe: Breaking down how the Celtics couldn’t crack the Heat’s zone defense

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