Veteran guard Marcus Smart, who appeared to be one of the loudest voices in the exchange, exited the locker room at one point looking visibly angry before he reentered and another round of shouting unfolded. Smart left without talking to reporters, but Coach Brad Stevens and multiple Celtics players did their best to downplay the post-game scene.
“In families, there’s ups and downs, fights and emotions,” forward Jaylen Brown said. “But that’s exactly what we are: a family. We’re going to hold each other accountable.”
In Game 1, Boston held a six-point lead with less than four minutes to play in regulation before falling 117-114 in overtime. In Game 2, the Celtics were outscored by 20 points in the third quarter and gave up a five-point lead with under three minutes to play.
“Guys were emotional after a hard game, hard loss,” Stevens said flatly.
Smart’s obvious frustration was not a concern to Brown, who said the Celtics rely on their defensive stopper for his energy and personality.
“He plays with passion, he’s full of fire,” said Brown, who finished game 2 with 21 points. “That’s what I love about him most, to be honest. He has that desire and that will, and we need him to continue to have that. … Who Marcus is, I love him for it.”
Given the layout of the Adventhealth Arena inside the NBA’s bubble at Disney World, reporters are typically kept at least 30 feet from each team’s locker room, and along with other bystanders are kept away from the locker rooms until after all players have entered their designated team spaces after games.
The Celtics’ conversation continued well after media members were allowed access to the hallways where postgame interviews take place, a highly unusual development during these playoffs.
Jayson Tatum, who missed his final seven shots in Game 1, did not attempt a shot in the final 4:55 seconds of Game 2. The 22-year-old all-star forward sounded annoyed that the Celtics’ shouting match was audible to reporters.
“We’re frustrated, but that’s team sports,” said Tatum, who posted 21 points. “You’re not supposed to be happy we’re down 0-2. Nothing going on there. Just talking about the game. It’s cool. … What happened after the game, what happens in a locker room [has] got to stay in the locker room. [We’re] not supposed to come out here and talk about what we talk about as a team after a win or a loss."
Goran Dragic led the Heat with 25 points, including a dagger three-pointer in the final minute. Jimmy Butler posted 14 points and four rebounds, but added four steals, including two on passes by Smart in the game’s final 90 seconds. Miami closed on a 17-7 run in the final minutes, with Butler icing the victory with a pair of free throws.
“[Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra] is always preaching to me to impact winning,” Butler said. “I think I did that on the defensive end, Goran and everybody else did that on the offensive end. My job tonight was to guard and play those passing lanes, keep the energy level high and do what I can to help us win.”
Although the Heat entered the series as slight underdogs, they have shown far greater poise than the Celtics, battling back from double-digit deficits in both games. Their zone defense has stymied the Celtics’ offense at times, and they have made Boston look out of sync in crunchtime.
Tatum hasn’t looked nearly as comfortable as he did earlier in the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors, and Kemba Walker has struggled at times to free himself from taller and longer defenders.
“We haven’t done anything,” Butler said. “We haven’t. We can’t get excited that we’re up 2-0 because as good as it is to be 2-0, it could easily be 4-2 Boston. So we’re going to come into the same way knowing that we’ve got to be better and stay humble about it.”
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