Ime Udoka ostensibly blamed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Boston Celtics' Game 1 loss against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Having led by eight points in the first half (62-54), the Celtics were outscored 14-39 in the third quarter which completely changed the complexion of the contest. The visitors went on to lose Game 1 107-118 at FTX Arena on Tuesday.
The Boston Celtics were dealt a severe blow a few hours before the start of the game as two of their starters, Al Horford and Marcus Smart, were ruled out of the opening contest against the Miami Heat. Horford entered health and safety protocols while Smart is dealing with an ankle injury that he picked up in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka had to consequently play Payton Pritchard (18 points on 6-of-16 shooting in 30 minutes) and Aaron Nesmith (0 points in 11 minutes) for extended minutes in their absence, a possible factor contributing to the Celtics' defeat. Udoka, however, called out his stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the post-game media interaction. He said:
"Having Marcus and Al might have helped, because they settle us down, but it wasn't really just that. And it wasn't our young guys, Payton and Aaron, but it was our veterans Jayson and Jaylen who let it get away from us."
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown endure horrid third quarter as Miami Heat outscore Boston Celtics by 25
There is some truth in what Udoka told the media. Jayson Tatum had 21 points at the half, but managed only five points in the third period and three in the fourth. Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, had a strong finish to the game as he scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, but had only nine points through the first three periods.
Together, both Tatum and Brown combined for eight turnovers in the third period, with Tatum alone contributing six turnovers in the first 12 minutes after the half. The 24-year-old Boston superstar gave the ball up on three straight possessions in less than 45 seconds between the 6:20 mark and the 5:47 mark of the third quarter, which led to six easy points for the Miami Heat.
Neither Tatum nor Brown had a field goal in the entire 12-minute stretch after halftime.
Both Tatum and Brown will have a chance to redeem themselves in less than forty-eight hours as the Miami Heat once again host the Boston Celtics in Game 2 on Thursday.