Malcolm Brogdon has done everything possible to help his Boston Celtics team remain above water during the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Acquired from the Indiana Pacers last summer, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year is averaging 14.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 41% shooting from distance.
Unfortunately, nothing the Celtics have been able to do thus far in the Eastern Conference Finals against the underdog Miami Heat has worked.
The defending conference champs find themselves in a 3-0 series hole heading into Game 4 in South Beach Tuesday night. Boston is coming off a disaster class of a performance in a 26-point loss to Miami Sunday. It has the team on the brink of elimination and wondering what exactly has gone wrong.
“I think it’s teams that have a strong identity. I think Miami is one of the teams, one of the few teams in the league — Miami, Denver, there are only a few of them — that have a really strong identity, and they play by it every single night. They’re super committed to it,” Brogdon told reporters on Monday.
“And, for us, our identity has waned all year long. We’ve been trying to figure out who we are, because I think we’re such a great, talented scoring team, but when we don’t make shots, we got to rely on our defense, and our defense isn’t consistent every night.”
Sunday’s 128-102 loss to Miami was a prime example of this lack of consistency. The Heat shot 57% from the field, including 19-of-35 from three-point range.
Secondary options such as Gabe Vincent (29 points), Duncan Robinson (22 points) and Caleb Martin (18 points) tore through a Boston Celtics defense that finished the regular season No. 5 in points allowed and third in rating.
In fact, those three outscored Boston’s three leading scorers from the regular season by a 69-26 mark. For his part, Brogdon finished with zero points on 0-of-6 shooting.
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Boston Celtics facing elimination, questions about the future
No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA Playoff series. That’s the situation Boston finds itself in heading into Game 4 Tuesday night. For Brogdon, it’s not over until you lose four games.
“That’s the approach you have to take,’ Brogdon said. “We still believe we’re the better team. We have not played like it in these three games. But there is always a first.”
Even then, there is a dark cloud hanging over the Boston Celtics right now. They were two wins from the NBA title last season. They boasted the second-best record in the Eastern Conference this past regular season. The future of first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla could very well be up in the air.
Unless Boston pulls off an historic comeback in the conference finals, this coming summer will be spent finding a new identity. That’s for sure.