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The first shocker of the NBA postseason is complete. The eighth-seeded Miami Heat bounced the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion Wednesday night. Jimmy Butler engineered a second-straight improbable comeback from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter in a 128-126 overtime win.

While it can certainly be considered a Milwaukee meltdown, it’s more appropriate to give Butler and the Heat the credit they deserve. The Boston Celtics, who now become the clear frontrunners to win the NBA title, can thank Butler and the Heat for opening that door, but first they should learn from them.

The Boston Celtics need a Jimmy Butler-type player

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks during the second quarter in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at TD Garden on April 25, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.

In the offseason, the Boston Celtics took care of a glaring weakness — lack of depth. Boston had a grueling playoff run a year ago, and that depth problem caught up with them in the NBA Finals as they ran out of gas against the Golden State Warriors. They traded for veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon, who helped cure Boston’s bench problem by unselfishly leading the second unit and earning Sixth Man of the Year honors.

The Celtics have the talent. Led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they have two young All-Stars who can stuff a stat sheet. Tatum and Brown also have a talented supporting cast, boosted by Derrick White, another strong acquisition by Brad Stevens. What they don’t have is a Jimmy Butler-type player.

As good as Tatum and Brown are, they have yet to show they can consistently take over in the postseason. A year ago against the Bucks in the conference semifinals, Tatum exploded for 46 points in a do-or-die Game 6 in Milwaukee. That was the only game he dominated. Overall, he was more average than good in the 2022 playoffs.

This year has been no different. In Tuesday’s Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics had a golden opportunity to close out the series at home. They held a 3-1 series lead and a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter but lost 119-117. In that game, Tatum went 1-for-10 from three-point land, Brown continued to turn the ball over in key moments, and veteran guard Marcus Smart had a pair of costly fouls down the stretch.

Nobody on the team has consistently been able to do what Butler does for his team — take over when called upon. Butler had 56 points against the Bucks in Game 4. He went for 42 Wednesday night and hit key basket after key basket.

The Celtics can learn a lot from Butler and the Heat as they try to close out the Hawks

First, the Celtics should thank Butler and the Heat for sending the Bucks packing. Now the Eastern Conference road to the NBA Finals goes through Boston. The Celtics have home court throughout the postseason, including the championship round.

Next, they must take care of business against the Hawks. The playoffs are a different animal, and the Bucks quickly found out that seeding means nothing. Atlanta has new life and the momentum in Game 6 after Boston failed to bury them at home Tuesday night. Game 6 technically isn’t a must-win for Boston, but the Celtics need to show they can step up and take charge. Tonight is the perfect opportunity.

Butler and the Heat proved no team can be taken lightly. The Celtics’ biggest issue this year has been complacency. It’s almost like they get bored when they get comfortable.

Tatum has said he’s motivated by last year’s loss to the Warriors in the Finals. He always says he has to be better whenever he has a rough game. The talking has to stop. Boston’s “superstar” needs to step up and be a Jimmy Butler. It starts tonight in Atlanta.


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