Reporter's Notebook: Deuce Tatum among few Game 1 bright spots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
*Editor's Note: The Boston Celtics have dug themselves a 1-0 hole in the Eastern Conference finals after losing 117-114 to the Miami Heat in overtime on Tuesday. NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin shares her observations from Game 1.
Looking for the positives
There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Celtics' overtime loss to the Heat in Game 1 was tough to take. As Marcus Smart said, the green got “complacent” after building double-digit leads in both the second and fourth quarters. It’s inexcusable, especially in the Eastern Conference finals.
If there is one positive takeaway, it’s this: The Celtics won the third quarter, 28-16. Coming out of the break, Boston held Miami to its lowest scoring total for a quarter in the playoffs. This is noteworthy because Boston lost EVERY third quarter to the Raptors in the East semifinals.
When I asked Kemba Walker about it last week, he told me, "If we knew what the issue was we’d fix it."
Yes, Boston inexplicably let go of the rope in Game 1. But after hearing from the players, it's clear the Celtics have confidence that they will be able to fix their mistakes.
Deuce is in the Bubble
Something else that put a smile on my face was seeing Jayson Tatum’s reunion with his son Deuce. After two-plus months apart, you could see an extra pep in the elder Tatum’s step at the start of Game 1. The Celtics superstar went deep into his bag, leading the way with a game-high 30 points.
But that apparently wasn’t enough to keep the two-and-a-half-year-old’s attention, as cameras caught Deuce watching an iPad in the second half.
What's Deuce watching? pic.twitter.com/K2MJ8b6oIn
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) September 16, 2020
Obviously, Tatum would rather have the story of hitting a 25-foot game-winner in regulation at bed time. But, Jayson told me after the game, “It’s refreshing to finally get to see some familiar faces and to spend some quality time with him.”
He’s not alone. Head coach Brad Stevens told me before the game, "I walked down the hallway with Deuce today, which was the highlight of my 70 days here."
ALERT: DEUCE IS IN THE HOUSE pic.twitter.com/Gvx9wgHlK2
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) September 15, 2020
Brad Wanamaker stands out
Tatum wasn’t the only guy who had his own cheering section. Brad Wanamaker’s family also joined him in the bubble Tuesday. Adding to the degree of difficulty of surviving quarantine with two kids, Brad Jr. (10) and Isabella (7), his wife Michelle is in the midst of her first year of law school.
Wanamaker couldn’t contain his excitement Monday, telling me, “The second day they both called me and said Daddy, ‘I’m so bored.’ And said, ‘what did you expect to be doing.’ … Toronto had so many families cheering them on. It’ll be cool to have some family cheering us on.”
Wanamaker's cheering section did seem to give him a boost. The Celtics reserve guard played arguably his best game of the season, steadying the offense with 11 points while dishing out six assists and creating havoc on defense with a career-high five steals.
Grant Williams is always ready
Miami’s depth was one of my biggest concerns coming into this series. Tuesday's game from Wanamaker and Grant Williams’ ability to stay ready and execute the defensive game plan no matter when Stevens calls number has given me confidence in the Celtics' bench.
Even though he didn’t receive any votes for the NBA’s All-Rookie teams, Williams continues to help his team advance in the postseason. A late first round pick, Williams was solid in Game 7 against the Raptors after Daniel Theis fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, and he did it again in overtime against the Heat in Game 1.
Williams and Stevens credit assistant coach Brandon Bailey with keeping him prepared. (Bailey, who replaced Kara Lawson early in the Celtics’ bubble stay, has three young children back at home. #Sacrifice.)
Grant told me: “He’s the head defensive guy, so I just listen to what he says. [Bailey] shows me film -- I do my best to memorize the tendencies but also the play calls that the other team has.
"It’s just a credit to him, always being prepared and knowing what to do in those circumstances. And us working every single day from the summer until now, defensively, just trying to get my feet better, be able to guard on the wing, and also being able to be there for my teammates."