What a difference a few days can make.
After declaring Saturday that “not a single person in America” believed the Heat could win a Game 7 against the Celtics, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley was singing a different tune Monday.
Just minutes after the Celtics dropped a crushing 103-84 result to Miami at TD Garden, Barkley and the rest of the “Inside The NBA” TNT crew ripped the Celtics for their putrid performance, especially on offense.
“They play bad basketball,” Barkley said, as seen on a video posted by Awful Announcing. “They’re so undisciplined and un-fundamentally sound. They win games strictly on talent. They don’t even run an offense. That’s what disappointed me the most. You can win a lot of games on just talent. But against a zone, they just settle for jumpers. There’s no ball, body movement.”
Barkley: "They're so undisciplined and un-fundamentally sound. They win games strictly on talent. They don't even run an offense."— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 30, 2023
Shaq: "When they went 0-10 to start the game...0-12, that should have told them, 'hey settle it down. Let's get the pacing game back in our favor.'" pic.twitter.com/1dHUBgPDEf
All season long, the Celtics offense revolved around a hefty reliance on 3-point shots. But when those shots don’t fall, they routinely have found themselves unable to adjust.
Those flaws reared their heads at the worst possible time.
For the first time all season, the Celtics were held to less than 90 points, in large part because of their 3-point shooting. After connecting on just 9 of 35 3-pointers in Game 6, they shot only 21.4 percent (9 for 42) Monday night.
For fellow TNT analyst and NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, the Celtics’ most costly miscue was rooted in lack of adjustments. They failed to hit their first 12 shots from beyond the arc before finally swishing in a 3-pointer with 9:53 remaining in the second quarter.
“They play what we refer to as ‘hero ball,’ ” O’Neal said. “Game 7, [they’re] excited. They want every play to be pretty. They wanted to shoot the three. They were actually trying to get the crowd involved.
“But when they went 0 for 12 … that should have told them, ‘Hey, settle it down. Let’s get the pace of the game back in our favor. Let’s take high-percentage shots and let’s take the wide-open shots.’ ”
Joe Mazzulla’s game plan on offense rarely steered the Celtics away from 3-point range.
Granted, a team with their shooting talent has the means to overcome nights when a star or two goes cold from deep. But when the entire team finds itself in a shooting rut?
“That’s not what you call championship-caliber,” O’Neal said. “They tried to do it the hard way.
“When my team goes 0 for 10 in the first quarter, you know what I’m telling everybody? ‘Don’t shoot another three. Shoot another three and I’m punching you in your face. Let’s get the ball inside’. … No, seriously.
“This is a Game 7 close-out. My team is 0 for 10 in the first quarter. I’m going to the bench and saying, ‘Next person who shoots a three, I’m punching you in your face.’”
The TNT crew was far from the only basketball program to take the Celtics to task for yet another loss on their home court.
“At what point are you going to get tired of somebody celebrating on your home court?” former Celtic Eddie House said on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “At what point are you going to get tired of somebody hoisting a trophy, everybody hoorah-ing in the locker room, Gatorade, water bottles shaking everywhere.
“When are you going to get tired of that? When are you going to get tired of that and be on the winning side of that?
“These fans deserve it. They wanted to see it. But from the jump, we were never able to get the fans involved. I just felt like they were a step behind on every single thing, offensively and defensively.”
Conor Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.