If you’re wondering “how come C’s only quit now”, this is my take:
- I think the C’s won 57 because our two top stars had too much to lose by not playing well. All-NBA and Supermax was at stake and they had the talent to get there if they applied themselves.
- They won the Hawks series with regular season effort. Simply because the talent disparity was that big.
- The Philly series, iirc, the all-NBA teams were announced around this time. So with the bag secured, they went about their usual business and that’s why they ended up in a 2-3 hole. Philly choked away game 6 and Tatum went god mode on game 7 because who wants to lose game 7? But again, we can see how the effort waxes and wanes.
- They entered the Miami series with the same “regular season” effort and well, we would be winning if the Heat didn’t “turn it up” every time down the stretch. Up until game 3, it was a competitive series. We just withered down the stretch
FWIW, I don’t think the team is actively trying to lose to “stick it to Joe”. But this deep in the season/postseason, you are your habits. And the C’s developed a habit of indifference under the guidance of Joe. Joe can’t rally this group, not because they conveniently quit on him now, but because they never bought into him ever. The players still largely determine the outcome after all. But ironically, the impact of good coaching is seen in the Heat, who have had a turbulent season but rallied together because well… You are your habits.
I’m sure though, if you ask any player on the team, they’d rather be up 3-0