Celtics kick opportunity into a ditch

There are two ways to look at the 2022-23 Celtics:

What a scrappy bunch! They battled their way back from an 0-3 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals, played their hearts out and forced a Game 7. There was no quit in these gallant ballplayers.

Or …

What a monumental failure by a group of self-important under-achievers. They had an open road to a championship and managed to find the ditch.

We’ll go with Door No. 2.

Monday night’s loss to the Miami Heat was the resounding thud to which these Celtics have grown accustomed. They played brain-dead basketball, chucking wayward 3’s one trip down the floor and making unforced turnovers the next.

They were beaten by Jimmy Butler and a gaggle of mediocrity. Or can a case be made that Duncan Robinson will one day visit Springfield and not need an admission ticket to gain entry?

Fans who lingered to the end were taunted by Duncan as he drove for a layup and trotted back up the floor, cupping his right hand to his ear.

The Heat were up 21. They could’ve gone scoreless for the rest of the night and still won comfortably.

If that didn’t chase more fans out of the building, those souls are remarkably resilient in the face of sheer nausea.

The going immediately got tough Monday night when Jayson Tatum rolled an ankle in the opening minute. Jaylen Brown claimed responsibility for the ensuing disaster by failing to pick up the slack. Brown not only shot 8-for-23, he committed eight turnovers.

Thoughts of the Celtics trying to do a little more work inside the paint seemed a distant fantasy.

That is the most maddening thing about the Celtics – their unapologetic dependency on 3-pointers. When the 3’s are dropping, all is well. When they are clanging, the Celtics just keep on lining up around the arc and firing at will.

Monday night they were 9-for-42 from 3-point land. Asked if the Celtics are overly dependent on 3’s, coach Joe Mazzulla snarled, “No.”

If truly believes that, Mazzulla should be fired for an inability to communicate with reality.

Rarely has a Celtics team faced a more favorable path to the finals. Never has a Celtics team buried itself with such ease.

Tying the series after losing the first three games is a noble feat.

But it never should have come to that.

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