Bradford: This isn't all Brad Stevens' fault, but he isn't helping matters


I'm not that guy.

You know, the guy who blames a hitting coach when a baseball team goes into a slump. Blames a pitching coach for lousy pitching. A basketball coach for ... well, wait a second.

I was not giving Brad Stevens as big a piece of blame pie for some of the Celtics' postseason miscues as some. Did I think it was a mistake to play zone with half-a-second left against Toronto? Yup. Did I believe there was probably a better offensive approach to the Raptors' box-and-one? Yup. Was I thrilled with the choice of Jim O'Brien-esque isolations during crunch-time in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference? Nope.

But I do believe Stevens is a good coach. I don't mind his even-keel approach in the dark times. For me, it has always been more the solution that the problem.

This one was different.

There were plenty of reasons why the Celtics find themselves in a 2-0 hole against the Heat in the teams' best-of-seven series. But I can't shake what I felt was the biggest factor in the C's 106-101 loss Thursday night: Brad Stevens got out-coached at the most inopportune time.

Sort of, but not really.

The fact of the matter is that the Heat won this game with their third-quarter comeback, erasing a 17-point deficit with 12 minutes which saw Erik Spoelstra's team score 20 more points than the Celtics. And they did it with two very simple strategies implemented by the Miami coach ...

1. The Heat executed pick-and-rolls with the ball going to the big men diving toward the hoop.

2. Miami played a 2-3 zone.

It really was maddeningly simple.

Ultimately, the Celtics decided to pick their poison by committing to stopping Bam Adebayo instead of worrying about the shooters. But by the time they did, the damage had already been done. It took far too long for Stevens and Co. to figure it out.

Yet it was No. 2 that was the real dagger. You simply don't see an NBA team run out a 2-3 zone for an entire half, including with the game tied in the final minutes, without its opposition making them pay the price. That, however, was exactly what happened. And a good chunk of that has to fall on Stevens.

The movement and strategy the Celtics rolled out against this zone was just as mundane as what we witnessed against the Raptors. Actually, worse. Too much standing around. No desire to execute the obvious, which was relying on aggressiveness toward the hoop against a backline made up of guards.

Jaylen Brown had his moments of taking matters into his own hands. And the Celtics finally did put a player at the foul line instead of just trying to swing it around the perimeter. But nothing really took root. Which was why Spoelstra never came out of it. Ever.

I promise I'm not going to pin this all on the coach. It is still a players league, and the Celtics' players should own plenty of the blame.

They were out-hustled. They were the ones not having the wherewithall to attack the zone. They were the ones who committed an unfathomable 20 turnovers.

The Heat are getting the better of the Celtics. Spoelstra is besting Brad. These are the facts. Now we find out if the script can be flipped. And if it isn't? The pieces of blame pie are only going to get bigger.