Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge weighed in on the Eastern Conference Finals during a recent appearance on Boston local radio talk show Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub following Wednesday’s Game 4 loss to the Heat.
Ainge, who expressed his frustration with the Celtics’ struggle against Miami’s zone defense, pointed to the Celtics’ level of focus during the game’s most challenging moments and questioned if lack of maturity is playing a role throughout the series.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot of great shots, (we’ve not) been able to knock them down,” Ainge said. “We had, in the first half last night, so many wide-open shots that we normally make. I don’t know if our guys are at the stage of their career where they can continue to play with the same force defensively and focus when things aren’t going their way. A lot of that is just maturity. A lot of that is we just have 22 and 23 (year-olds) and I’m not playing excuses for age because our young guys have been through a lot, and had some shining, brilliant moments.”
Is Danny Ainge Frustrated With Brad Stevens?
While ages of players such as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – both well under 25 – has come up as a reason for why the Celtics are on the brink of elimination, Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens has also received plenty of blame for his team’s lack of executing against Miami’s defensive coverages. Ainge was asked if his frustration with the players have extended to Boston’s bench.
“Not even a little bit,” Ainge replied. “Last night, we had so many good stretches in the course of the game; you can see that our players are prepared. It’s just being able to sustain it. The turnovers, there were so many of them that were just unforced turnovers, so that is frustrating. I’ve always been a person that has taken blame as a player. I’ve sat on the bench watching one of my players shoot free-throws thinking, ‘If he makes these free-throws, I’m a great coach and if he misses, I’m a terrible coach,’ and it’s just obviously not the way.
“That’s just the way that we look at it sometimes. If we had squeaked out a win last night, we don’t question anything but when you lose by three points, you question everything.”
Brad Stevens: ‘If You Do That, You Get Another Opportunity’
The question heading into Game 5 for the Celtics is; will Boston’s offense find its consistency? The Heat’s blistering defensive pressure has been a glaring thorn in Stevens and the Celtics’ side and in Game 4 it was its peak.
Instead of implementing its coverage in doses, Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra threw various versions of his zone defense throughout the entire game, rattling the Celtics’ offensive flow while the Heat capitalized in route to a 112-109 victory and now hold a 3-1 lead in the series.
“It’s not ideal by any means but bottom line is that you have to play one game to win that game and if you do that you get another opportunity,” Stevens said after Thursday’s practice. “So our focus has to be on tomorrow night – on playing better than we did last night and moving on from there.”