Miami Heat 2022 Draft Board, with Historical Comparisons

With Thursday’s NBA Draft finally here, I’ve put together a list of 25 players for my Miami Heat “Big Board”.  With help from Brady Hawk and Greg Sylvander sharing information about who Miami has worked out, I included those players in addition to prospects I felt were fits for the Heat’s system. The Heat are among many teams who may choose to move out of the late 1st round, so I included prospects who would be good fits in the 2nd round or even signed as undrafted free agents. To help Heat fans catch up, I’ve made a comparison to a historical Heat player they may be more familiar with!


EJ Liddell OSU 2021-22 Season Highlights | 19.4 PPG 7.9 RBG 49.0 FG%

  • EJ Liddell (6’6” F Ohio State) – Played as an undersized post for much of his time at Ohio State. Terrific switchable defender on the ball and protects the rim. In comparison to the other defensive-minded 4’s on this list, he brings the best complimentary offensive game right away. That being said, it can still use some polish with ball handling and passing skills.  Likely taken ahead of Miami’s 27th pick based on most mock drafts.  

Historic Heat Comp:  more athletic PJ Tucker


Jaden Hardy G League Ignite 2021-22 Season Highlights | 17.7 PPG 4.6 RPG 3.7 BLK

  • Jaden Hardy (6’4” G Ignite) – Provides a skill set that Miami lacks on its roster. Hardy has a deep bag of ball handling moves and can create a shot on his own. He seems to project immediately as a volume scorer off the bench with the potential to grow into a much more lethal scorer with more complimentary skills. Many rumors of him sliding could put him in range of Miami’s 27th pick.  

Historic Heat Comp: Dion Waiters


Blake Wesley 2021-22 Notre Dame Season Highlights | 14.4 PPG 2.4 APG 40.4 FG%

  • Blake Wesley (6’3” G Notre Dame) – The highest ranked player on most big boards that worked out for Miami. Wesley is an elusive ball handler and score-first player but still needs consistency in his shot and finishing. Near 7’ wingspan and athleticism provides a huge defensive upside. 

Historic Heat Comp: Kevin Edwards


“Serbian Sensation” Nikola Jovic 2021-22 Mega Mozzart Season Highlights | 11.7 PPG 42.8 FG% 35.6 3P%

  • Nikola Jovic (6’10” F Serbia) – With many defensive minded 4’s on this list, Jovic brings guard skills as nearly a 7 footer. Still a project that will need development on both ends, but his skillset is the mold for modern stretch 4’s. Defensively is a long way from capable of defending at even an average level in the NBA.  

Historic Heat Comp: younger Rashard Lewis


Naismith & SEC DPOY Walker Kessler 2021-22 Auburn Season Highlights | 11.4 PPG 4.6 BLK

  • Walker Kessler (7’0” C Auburn) – Athletic big and elite shot blocker. Needs to get stronger to defend NBA bigs. Good screener and finisher, only a roller at this point but has shown flashes of becoming a pick and pop big. 

Historic Heat Comp: Hassan Whiteside without the baggage


Jake Laravia Wake Forest 2021-22 Season Highlights | 14.6 PPG 55.9 FG% 38.4 3P%

  • Jake LaRavia (6’7” F Wake Forest) – Creative passer and good spot-up shooter. Doesn’t provide much off the bounce, but moves well without the ball. While he lacks elite athleticism, competes on defense and can defend multiple positions if he adds NBA strength. Fits what Miami likes at the 4, so likely why Miami worked him out. 

Historic Heat Comp: Shane Battier


Andrew Nembhard 2021-22 Gonzaga Season Highlights | 11.8 PPG 5.8 APG 45.2 FG%

  • Andrew Nembhard (6’3” G Gonzaga) – Coming into the draft at 22 years old, seems close to an NBA ready backup PG. High IQ creator and very physical guard on both ends. Three-level potential, but shot could use polishing. 

Historic Heat Comp: Beno Udrih


Caleb Houstan || Freshman Highlights ||

  • Caleb Houstan (6’8” F Michigan) – Another fit in the mold of what Miami wants in a complimentary piece next to Jimmy and Bam in the front court. Obviously the Juwan Howard connection at Michigan provides great insight into his projection in Miami. Great catch and shoot threat, high IQ passer, but limited off the bounce. Not the best athlete but should survive defensively. 

Historic Heat Comp: Markieff Morris


Christian Koloko | Arizona | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Christian Koloko (6’11” C Arizona) – Huge potential as shot blocker and finisher, but if you’re Miami, can he fit next to Bam without a jumper? He’s still very raw and would require added strength and development. In theory, he’s an intriguing prospect but not sure the fit is there for the Heat.  

Historic Heat Comp: Jarvis Varnado


National Champion Christian Braun 2021-22 Kansas Season Highlights | 14.1 PPG 6.5 RPG 49.5 FG%

  • Christian Braun (6’6” G Kansas) – Pesky, high-energy defender and superb athlete who thrives in the open floor. Needs to add NBA strength and consistent outside shot to stick in the league. Worked out for Miami and fits the mold of wings who the Heat have developed over recent years. 

Historic Heat Comp: Josh Richardson


Justin Lewis 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Justin Lewis (6’6” F Marquette) – Strong, long (7’2” wingspan), switchable defender. Worked out for Miami and would seem to be an ideal fit in their defensive system. Still needs polish offensively to compliment his defensive strengths. 

Historic Heat Comp: James Johnson without guard skills


Josh Minnott | Memphis | 2021-2022 Season Highlights

  • Josh Minott (6’8” F Memphis) – Elite athlete with high-flying bounce. Switchable defender with elite upside, but must add NBA strength to play small-ball 5. Offense is a huge project to develop with no real shooting, passing, or dribbling skills. Worked out for Miami and would address the lacking athleticism on the roster. 

Historic Heat Comp: Mark Strickland


Dereon Seabron | NC State | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Dereon Seabron (6’7” G NC State) – Athletic guard who specializes in getting downhill (80% of FGA at the rim). Poor shooter at this point so would require development in that area. Defensive-upside with his length. Miami worked him out and will fill the need for rim pressure on the perimeter. 

Historic Heat Comp: Qyntel Woods


Jabari Walker 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Jabari Walker (6’9” F Colorado) – Switchable defender who has high defensive upside. Not quite athletic enough to play the 3, not strong/big enough to survive at the 4. His offensive game needs polish to stick in the league long term. Miami worked him out and fits the mold they’ve used at the 4. 

Historic Heat Comp: more athletic Samaki Walker


Keon Ellis | Alabama | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Keon Ellis (6’6” G Alabama) – Creates havoc as an on-ball defender with this athleticism and length (6’9” wingspan). Worked out for Miami and would be ideal playing the top of their 2-2-1 press. Offensive upside is there, but needs polish. 

Historic Heat Comp: James Ennis


John Butler | Florida State | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • John Butler (7’0” F Florida State) – While certainly a development project, Butler is a 7 footer who can defend multiple positions and is a knockdown shooter (39%) from outside. Could develop into a pick and pop big, but needs to add strength (only 175 lbs.) to survive in the NBA. 

Historic Heat Comp: taller Okaro White


Moussa Diabate | Michigan | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Moussa Diabate (6’10” F Michigan) – Switchable defender with length (7’2” wingspan). Effective rebounder. Useful as a pick & roll big, but has limited offensive skill outside of that. Worked out for Miami and played for Juwan Howard at Michigan. 

Historic Heat Comp: Willie Reed


Jaylin Williams | Arkansas | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Jaylin Williams (6’9” F Arkansas) – Another defensive-minded 4, but lacks athleticism and shooting ability to fit the Heat’s mold. He is considered to be the best charge taker in the draft, so he already bought into the Heat Culture. Would need significant development on the offensive end to become an NBA rotation player. 

Historic Heat Comp: Grant Long


Julian Champagnie | St. John’s | 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Julian Champagnie (6’8” G/F St John’s) – Scorer who does most of his damage on the perimeter. Doesn’t have elite quickness, but can create shots off the dribble. Needs improvement off the catch and shoot mechanics likely would be tweaked. Has high defensive “two-way” upside and is already a very effective off-ball defender. Worked out for Miami. 

Historic Heat Comp: Rasual Butler


Jordan Hall: 2022 NBA Draft Scouting Report

  • Jordan Hall (6’7” G St Joseph’s) – Not a great athlete overall, but displays excellent passing abilities for his size. Will need to improve as a shooter and show ability to defend at NBA level. 

Historic Heat Comp: Shaun Livingston


2x Big East POY Collin Gillespie 2021-22 Season Highlights | 15.6 PPG 43.4 FG%

  • Collin Gillespie (6’3” G Villanova) – With Miami’s history of developing shooters, and Villanova’s history of putting guards into the league, this could be a great development match. Gillespie is a rare five-year senior who shot 42% from behind the arc who brings a mature control of running an offense. He plays with a high motor, but likely will struggle to defend NBA guard. 

Historic Heat Comp: Damon Jones


Jamaree Bouyea: 2022 NBA Draft Mini Scouting Report

  • Jamaree Bouyea (6’2” G San Francisco) – Likely an undrafted prospect, Bouyea could draw attention as an all-around point guard with great creation ability. His 6’7” wingspan and abilities away from the ball could be developed into a capable defender. 

Historic Heat Comp: Norris Cole


Jared Rhoden: 2022 NBA Draft Mini Scouting Report

  • Jared Rhoden (6’6” G Seton Hall) – Lacks elite athleticism, but was a volume scorer for Seton Hall. Could develop into an off the bench bucket getter with solid defense.

Historic Heat Comp: Kasib Powell


Trevion Williams 2021-22 Season Highlights

  • Trevion Williams (6’8” F Purdue) – Lacks in the defensive skills that are typically identified with a Heat forward, but projects as a pick and roll big with strong passing skills out of the short roll. Will need to improve his outside shot and find a way to survive defensively as a slower, undersized big. 

Historic Heat Comp: Yante Maten


Quenton Jackson Drosp 28 PTS In Win At No. 25 Alabama!

  • Quenton Jackson (6’4” G Texas A&M) – Combo guard who can provide scoring punch. Good athlete with two-way potential. Entering draft at 23 years old. Worked out for Miami. 

Historic Heat Comp: Khalid Reeves



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Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Steph Curry, Once in a Lifetime

People like Stephen Curry come around once in a lifetime.  Today no one in the NBA puts more pressure on a defense with their arsenal than #30.  He is a marksman that can never be replicated. And likely a demi-god among us mortals.


When Curry sat at the post-game podium, the first question he got was how it felt to win his first Finals MVP.  He told the reporter to forget about it because he and his teammates were now champions.  


Someone was going to inquire about the award media “experts” had made such a fuss about Curry not having.  As if it somehow subtracted from his eminence that it was missing from his oversized trophy cabinet when it’s just a prize for a series.  


His response told you everything you’d need to know about him as a teammate.  He could have reflected on his achievement, but that didn’t matter to him.  Winning his fourth meant something different than the rest.


No surprise there.  Curry is a compulsive winner who experienced two years of postseason withdrawals because of injuries to him and other members of his outfit.  He reminded reporters and everyone watching live how many days it had been since the Warriors were last sent home- a year and six days.


Yet, it was three seasons ago when Golden State last got a sniff of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.  Coming off five straight trips to the Finals is usually the last amount of juice the finest dynasties can squeeze out of a run.  The Warriors were stubborn enough to finish their late encore.


In the first half of the series, Golden State lost two of the first three and still needed to play a fourth match on the road.  In Game 4, Curry scored 43 points coming off screens, attacking in transition and slicing through the paint.  Three nights later in San Francisco, Andrew Wiggins stepped up, leading the Dubs in scoring to take a 3-2 lead, sending the series back to Boston.


The Celtics couldn’t climb out of their ditch because they kept dropping while defending the pick ‘n’ roll and were ineffective hunting Curry. When #30 turned the corner of screens, Boston gave up enough space outside while covering the drive to the basket. The Celtics also shot 37% from the field with Steph as their matchup on 80 attempts, per NBA Stats. He was a two-way star.  Much to Boston’s surprise and that of part-time observers who still ignorantly believe Curry is the same player defensively he was seven years ago. 


Additionally, the Celtics’ short bench eventually bit their tail.  They relied upon seven guys for heavy minutes in the series.  Their legs were dead.  


Through the Warriors’ run, Curry scored 602 playoff points, with 187 of those coming in the Finals.  It was the most he logged against the club’s four opponents and the highest output he’s had in the championship round, per basketball reference.  


All this jewelry Curry has racked up winning in his career has elevated his street cred to heights only men recognized on a first-name basis understand. I’m not here to say whether or not he is better than any of those guys.  But he’s one of them now.  If Curry were to wear all of that bling in broad daylight, the sunshine reflecting on his ice could blind a bystander if he’s not careful. 



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Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Warriors need more from Draymond Green

The Warriors should have filled out a missing persons report for Draymond Green.  Maybe it would help remind him of Game 4 at Boston Friday night. 


Golden State started Wednesday evening’s affair on their backfoot.  Boston had a double-digit lead in seven minutes because the Warriors were overhelping on non-threatening shooters causing them to be late on closeouts, while also having to play 4-on-5 offensively on innumerable possessions and getting assaulted on the glass.


Tatum looked for Curry on the perimeter through forced switches so he could have the smaller man on an island.  Advancing to the hole, Curry would get caught at Tatum’s hip, making help on the cut necessary but exposing the baseline or perimeter.  


Climbing out of a 12-point deficit at halftime is no simple task no matter how great the personnel on the losing side is.  The Warriors came out of the break sharper and outscored the Celtics through 12 minutes, 33-25, attacking on the fast break, running pick ‘n’ roll and capitalizing on second chance points. 


In the halfcourt, Curry used a double drag screen from Looney and Wiggins on the perimeter to get Horford on a mismatch.  Al dropped unnecessarily as Curry turned the corner of the screen at the top of the key and splashed a deep tray. 


Defending the screen and roll in transition, Boston’s big-man, again, dropped into the paint while Curry stopped on a dime at the right elbow and hit nothing but nylon. Horford must have thought he was still defending Miami’s Kyle Lowry from the previous series.


 Golden State was down four going into the final stretch but Boston’s counter, ramping up the RPMs defensively, was too large an obstacle to overcome.  It only made it easier for the Celtics to defend while Green was on the perimeter because of all the space given to him.  The Warriors only scored 11 points in the fourth quarter on 33% shooting from the field and 11% from deep.


This series could look a lot differently if Green was living up the reputation of his name.  It’s hard to convince anyone a player is performing up to expectations when they have more turnovers than made field goals three games into a series.


One can only wonder what would have been the Warriors fate Sunday night if the referees called double technical fouls on Green and Jaylen Brown for their entanglement.  In the regular season, more has been made out of less.  Green already had one technical foul.  He was lucky the refs didn’t have quick whistles.


The NBA Communications department said Zach Zarba’s ref crew handled the situation correctly by just calling it a defensive foul on Green in Game 2.


Regardless, of what the league says, it could reasonably be argued the situation warranted double Ts.  Brown escalated matters by swiping Green’s legs off his side and then Green shoved his back and pulled himself up by grabbing Brown’s shorts before they exchanged unpleasantries.  


The series sits at 2-1 favoring the Celtics, but in order for the Warriors to have a chance on the road in Game 4 they’ll need more than what their starting power forward is giving them. Green’s defense in Game 3 was out of control. He fouled out in crunch time and his final statline read 2 points on 1/4 attempts, 3 assist and 4 rebounds.  Celtics players defended by #23 shot 6/16 from the field, yet he only contested four of those shots because of his reaching habit.  Playing like a free safety hasn’t worked well for one of the NBA’s best help defenders. 


On Wednesday, the Warriors gave up 52 paint points.  That’s on the group because the perimeter is the first area guarded.  A defense can only do so much when there’s a breakdown up top.  It’s difficult to expect a waning player like Green to cover so much ground.


On the other side, Green has trouble getting open in the post or paint.  More off and on-ball screens would help.  The man scarifying his body always has a short window to get the ball.  And hitting open shots would be a plus instead of leaving enough bricks on the court to start the construction of a new arena.


The Warriors have been in this position before going into a Game 4 in a hostile environment but that was seven years ago and the Warriors are now looking at a younger version of themselves.  Curry was once the golden goose of the league like Tatum is today.  Thompson was the ideal right hand man.  Brown’s current role.  Green was the swiss army knife complimenting the two but his edge has dulled.  Smart is that guy now.  And Kerr.  He led them to the promised land as a rookie head coach.  Ime Udoka is two wins away from doing the same thing for Boston.



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Mateo’s Hoops Diary: The Heat Left Seeing Red

Boston left Miami red with envy.  Losing Game 7 at base must feel like the ache from taking a kick to the nether regions that will last until October.  Especially after competing so vigorously after going down 17 points in the first quarter and having a chance to take the lead with 17 seconds left.  


The Heat’s carelessness with the ball and poor shot selection dug their early grave.  Boston got out on the fastbreak and scored 13 of their first 24 points before Miami could get set on defense.  The Celtics gagged the home team, causing them to misfire on 14 shots .  The only break in the clouds for the Heat in the opening quarter offensively was Jimmy Butler’s ruthless cuts and pressure on the interior.


The last 36 minutes for Miami was a backbreaking effort by Bam Adebayo and Butler to keep the group alive that ultimately came seconds away from a trip to the Finals. They made 20 of the Heat’s first 24 field goals. Aside from them, the rest of the starters and ancillary pieces converted 12/43 shots.  It felt like Adebayo and Butler were the only columns holding up a collapsing house. 


The seven Celtics players defended by Bam recorded 2/14 field goals in Game 7.  It’s a shame he couldn’t be everywhere at once for Miami.  He also finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds.


Yet, the Heat got beat at what it does best- being the nastier team. Miami was up 25-24 in gathered rebounds at the intermission.  In the second half Boston cranked up their pursuit of misses, finishing 27-19 in that category for the period. The Green also logged six more loose balls recovered.


It’s worth remembering because the game was decided by four points.  The Celtics were the more assertive team and it’s a significant reason why they collected the conference crown and new east champs shirts and snapbacks.


The end was sweet for Boston, all smiles and hugs at the podium.  And bitter for Miami, frustration and shame on the way out.


At postgame press, Butler fell on the sword for his team.  He said he wasn’t good enough for the series, yet his final act in Game 7 was magnificent. It’s the type of stuff you rave to your children about.  Competing for 48 minutes doesn’t just take away your legs, one is also emptied mentally.  Like Udonis Haslem said, “He went for the kill…” but he stole the hearts of supporters.


Most of the public usually remembers the winners when they take a stroll down memory lane but often there is brilliance on the losing side that’s typically disregarded.  The ones who care could never forget.


Adebayo played 46 minutes and Butler registered 48.  The ship sank but they went down swinging.  Bam and Jimmy were the two radiant Heatles whose fire was last to burn out.


The dejected looks and talk about not knowing who would be on the team next season wasn’t even the saddest part of the night.  That was when an usher approached me and said they would be collecting three fewer days of pay because the Heat wouldn’t move on. 


On Tuesday, coach Spo was still decompressing from the loss but he said, “It’s a bottom line business and we didn’t accomplish the goal we set out for ourselves…”


The truth can sting when it rolls off someone’s lips, but he wasn’t wrong.  The Heat are held to the standard the group set for themselves when they made the Finals two seasons ago.  Anything less is for the birds. 


Pain can be the most effective teacher.  We’ll see how Miami relacibates and reloads after licking their wounds.


Mateo’s Hoops Diary: The Heat on the Edge

Boston humiliating Miami has become a habit.  The low-scoring final stat sheet won’t explain how ugly it looked, so I’ll tell you.


The Celtics smothered the Heat in Game 5 and held them to 1/8 (12.5%) shooting in the paint on looks outside the restricted area in the first half.  As a reference, the league average on interior shots outside of 3-feet from the hoop is 42.9%.  


Boston is defending Miami like a poor perimeter shooting team.  The Green swarmed the Heat up top using length with Brown and Tatum to deter cuts. On DHOs or off-ball screens, the Celtics often dropped in coverage, daring the Heat into a shot from either wing.  


The road team also sagged off the corners, with a defender roaming the high post ready to help on opposing drives or dart back outside.  On one possession when Adebayo had a mismatch with Brown covering the block, Derrick White neutralized the advantage by giving PJ Tucker space while he got in position at the high post to challenge a potential pass to #13.


Defending transition, Boston walled up quickly, denying dribble penetration in the paint for an open kick out to the perimeter.  Miami came away with seven steals and a handful of long rebounds that got them out in the open court, yet only five fastbreak points to show for it.


Miami began the third quarter up five points and was down a few possessions into it.  The Green curbed the home team to 4/24 shooting for the period.  It was the Heat’s second-worst 12-minute span of the Playoffs behind the opening quarter of Game 4 (3/20).


Entering the final stretch, Miami’s confidence looked fractured by the large sample of missed open shots.  By my count, the Heat bricked 14 makeable buckets before the fourth started ticking.  Off-ball screens and hand-offs on the wings were buying the shooters time to aim and pull up, but easy ones weren’t trickling down the nylon.  


At postgame press, coach Spo said, “Those last three or four minutes of third and into the fourth, the consecutive missed open shots started to affect us on the other end….”


 Butler concurred.  He said, “We’ve been like that all year long.  When we’re not making shots, we’re not guarding anybody….”


On the other side, the Celtics were getting the looks they wanted.  Strus was tracked early. On one play, Boston reset with Smart dribbling on the right wing.  He pointed to the block- a signal for Horford to step inside the arc and back down Strus who camped in the low post.  When Boston’s center shielded with his back, Strus fronted at his right hip trying to deny the entry feed, but Smart cleverly bounced passed to his big-man’s opposite side.  Horford spun left, dusting Strus and finding Williams under the rim when Adebayo came to help.


The Celtics didn’t convert outside shots like they’re capable of in Game 5.  Of their 33 attempts, only 20 were contested.  An ingredient to extending this series for Miami is expeditiously closing out on snipers.  Giving the opponent more than double-digit open looks from deep is a bad gamble.  It likely won’t work in TD Garden.


Miami is down for the first time in the postseason.  It’s the only real adversity the Heat have encountered but with their backs completely against the edge of a cliff.  In the last two outings, the Heat were shell-shocked for the entire game or parts of it.  History says they have less than a 20% chance of advancing.  When up 3-2, the Celtics are 40-4 all-time.  If Miami is going to get by, they’ll have to do it the hard way. 



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Heat-Celtics: Where they Stand Statistically Entering Game 5

Coming into the Eastern Conference Finals, there was a lot of buzz behind the Boston Celtics and their dominant 12.7 Net Rating since January, the #1 most important indicator of winning NBA titles, according to many basket-bloggers and NBA media.


For all the talk about the Miami Heat’s offensive concerns, in reality, both teams came into the series being almost complete mirror images of each other: two extremely switch-heavy, elite defensive teams who don’t score quite as well, with the Celtics and Heat ranking 1st and 4th, respectively, in defensive rating (and halfcourt defensive rating), and then 9th and 12th, respectively, in offensive rating. 


The Heat also ranked just one spot below the Celtics in halfcourt offensive rating for the season. After 2 rounds of the Playoffs, the Heat had a better offensive and defensive rating in the halfcourt as well. For some reason, it felt like the Celtics were getting the benefit of the doubt from NBA media, whether on TV, print or on podcasts, with the majority projecting the lower seed to be the favorite. 


However, ever since the first tipoff of the Conference Finals, there has been a wild point swing that ends up deciding the game, in every game of this series. Essentially, whichever team that put together the significant run(s) goes on to win the game every time.


In Game 1, there were 3 lead changes and 2 ties, with the Heat outscoring the Celtics by 25 in one quarter. 


In Game 2, 1 lead change, 1 tie, with Boston having a +25 first half.


In both Games 3 and 4, there were no lead changes and no ties. In Game 3, the Heat had a +21 quarter. In Game 4, the Celtics had a +18 quarter.


All of this has led to the Heat and Celtics being tied 2-2 in the series, despite the Celtics winning 9 of 16 quarters overall compared to the Heat’s 3, (2 tied quarters), because that doesn’t actually count for anything.


Here’s what’s actually taken place on the court, statistically, beyond just the wild point swings.



Let’s get this part out of the way: in this series, the Celtics have a 33.9 free throw rate as opposed to the Heat’s 19.4, (30.8 FTAs per game to the Heat’s 21). The Celtics are at the free throw line 6.9 more times per game in this series than they were in the season, the Heat 0.7 fewer free throws than regular season. However, as Zach Lowe has pointed out, the Heat ranked 27th in opponent free throw rate this season. Their extra-physical defense leads to a lot of foul calls.


The Heat have done a good job holding onto the ball and forcing the Celtics into turnovers in the ECF. Despite the Celtics getting more assists per game and having the higher AST% for the series, the Heat have the superior assist to turnover ratio. The Celtics turn the ball over 15.3 times a game (16.1 TOV%), to the Heat’s 11.5 turnovers a game (12.1 TOV%). The Heat are deflecting the ball 21.3 times per game to the Celtics’ 14.


The Celtics have a 7.7 Net Rating for the series.


The Celtics have been the superior team in transition, (139.5 to 132.5 offensive rating in transition), despite both teams getting out in transition at almost an identical percentage per game, (separated by 0.4%).


Although the Heat and Celtics have an identical amount of offensive rebounds per game, the Celtics sport the higher OREB% and DREB%, grabbing 7.3 more rebounds a game overall than Miami.


The Cetics are beating out the Heat in a couple of hustle stats: charges drawn per game (in which Heat were 1st in total charges drawn this season) and loose balls recovered (on both ends).


Oddly enough, the Heat have a 25 Net Rating in 3 mins of clutch time this series (within 5 points, within 5 minutes left), if that means anything to you. Miami and Boston ranked 15th and 26th, respectively, in clutch Net Rating this season.


The Celtics’ defensive field goal percentage for the series is 3.2% lower (better) than the Heat’s, with the Celtics’ DFG% being almost identical to what it was during the season while the Heat’s is 1.7% worse than what it was this season.


Despite the turnover disadvantage, the Celtics have been the superior team in the halfcourt, posting a 102.5 offensive rating to the Heat’s 90.5, due to shooting about 38% from three and 47.6% in the mid-range, which is 2% and 6.6% better, respectively, than how they shot from those areas in the regular season. 


They’re also at a 60.1% true shooting for the series, which is 2.3% higher than what it was during the season. Whereas the Heat have a 53.4%, an entire 5% lower than their regular season number.


This has come as a result of the Heat shooting about 32% from three and 40% in the mid-range, which is 6.7% and 2.3% worse, respectively, than they did in the regular season. 


More importantly, where the Heat are taking their shots from has drastically changed in this series compared to what happened this season. The Celtics came into the Playoffs giving up the 2nd lowest percentage of shots at the rim and the 3rd highest percentage of mid-range shots, while giving up the lowest percentage of shots made in the mid-range.


They’ve stuck to their principles, with the Heat taking 9.3% more shots in the mid-range in this series than they did in the season, which has coincided with taking 4.9% fewer threes and 4.3% fewer shots at the rim.


The Celtics’ shot profile in this series is very similar to what it was during the season, taking 1% more of their shots from three, 1.6% fewer shots in the mid-range and 1.2% more shots at the rim against the Heat.


If you’re an optimistic Heat fan, you might think there could be a clear regression to the mean coming for the Celtics and on the other side of that coin, progression to the mean for the Heat.


If you’re a pessimistic Heat fan, you say all of this points to the Celtics executing their gameplan and outplaying and out-adjusting the Heat through 4 games.


All in all, the Heat return to Miami having done what they needed to in Boston, securing one gutsy ass win on the road, coming back to a best of 3 series, with 2 of those being at home, including Game 7, if needed. The Heat, despite all the noise, chaos, data and injuries, are in control of whether or not they return to the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.


So for Heat fans anxiously awaiting demise, trying to get out in front of the pain of defeat and despair ahead of Game 5, in an eerily similar fashion to the paranoia pre-Game 5 of Heat-Sixers and other decisive Heat Playoff games in the past, in the words of Pat Riley ahead of the 2019 offseason where he, Andy Elisburg and the Miami Heat organization were able to trade Hassan Whiteside, draft Tyler Herro and finesse the Philadelphia 76ers out of an elite player and their best playoff performer, all without having cap space, prompting them to a Finals run and an ECF run in 3 seasons:


“There’s no obstacles. Well, there are lots of them, but there are none.”



Mateo’s Hoops Diary: For the Heat, 2 down, 2 to go

For Boston, the refs, the ghost of Red Auerbach, and Jaylen Brown’s 41 piece weren’t enough to shake down the Heat minus their best player in the second half of Game 3. 


It was evident from the first couple of minutes that the Miami Heat weren’t going to get punked while surrounded by a sea of green.  Jayson Tatum looked for Max Strus on Boston’s first possession through a forced switch and drove to the hole but was provoked into a tough running floater that missed.  Kyle Lowry recovered the rock and pushed up the court to find Strus on the right wing for a triple.


Boston’s next possession. Al Horford had a mismatch in the left post with Lowry fronting for the entry feed.  Daniel Theis passed inside but the ball was batted away by Strus into Lowry’s hands for the takeaway.   


On the Celtics’ third try, Jaylen Brown was baited by Strus into taking an iso step-back 3-pointer at the top of the key.  It resulted in a rebound by Jimmy Butler, a quick outlet pass to Bam Adebayo who took the ball up court and crossed over Horford for a finishing cut at the rim.  


All five of Miami’s starters had scored on the first six shots of the opening quarter. Halfway through the period, the Boston fans had the same look on their faces as Heat supporters did during Thursday romping in Miami. Similar to the expression on Marlon Brando’s face at the end of Apocalypse Now when he whispers, “the horror, the horror.”


 The visiting team climbed to a 24-7 lead as it pummeled away at their opponent’s interior, converting 10/15 buckets in the box and 6/10 shots outside the square coming from transition opportunities and kickbacks from dribble penetration.


Adebayo has caught a lot of smoke for his poor play in Game 2, but to my understanding, he heard all of that noise.  Through the first two outings of the series, Miami’s big-man had only taken 10 shots from the field.  After the first half Saturday, Adebayo attempted 8/12 with his actions coming from attacking the paint in transition, a mix of post moves ending in a layup or hitting fall-away jumpers in the lane and pick ‘n’ roll.


It’s on Adebayo to be this dude every night.


Just before the conclusion of the first half, Miami had a 25-point lead, but their focus slipped.  The Celtics forced the Heat into low percentage and rushed shots, got out on the break, Horford hit an and-1 and Tatum splashed a corner banger with .5 seconds remaining, cutting the advantage to 15 heading into the third quarter.


There wasn’t much security in Miami’s lead before the final 24 minutes because Butler’s right knee was bothering him with inflammation.  Victor Oladipo started the third period in his place after sitting for a pair of quarters.  He was on the floor 71% of the second half, guarding his yard and disturbing Boston’s ball handlers. 


I thought Marcus Smart was done for this series as he screamed in agony and called for help following a failed attempt at an offensive rebound.  He challenged Lowry, bumping him in the air but Smart’s right foot didn’t come down flat and Miami’s point guard fell into his leg.  He could barely put weight on it when two trainers helped him hop to the locker room.


But then the broadcast showed a live feed of Smart running like Forrest Gump through the tunnel and back out to the court.  Some witch doctor cleared him to play with a sprained ankle.  As he made his way back to the floor, the crowd was hysterical, celebrating him like he helped raise the American flag at the top of Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima. 


Past the midway point of the fourth, Tatum appeared to hurt his shoulder when Oladipo stripped the ball from him on a right cut.  He dropped to the floor as the next two possessions continued, frantically holding the base of his arm.  


I was about to pour one out for Tatum’s season but he was back on the court a couple of minutes later. For the second time in one half, Boston’s medical team performed some miraculous healing.  Perhaps they should be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or 

Medicine.  Or more likely the case, those theatrics are going to buy Tatum a long career in Hollywood when his playing days are over if he chooses.


I’m no doctor, but it sure was strange observing Tatum jump to the floor for a loose ball on his first possession back, or when he crashed into Adebayo’s screen with his right shoulder and knocked him over, feeling nothing.  


It’s important to note that for 47/48 minutes of regulation, Miami had meagerly taken seven free throws and Boston got 30.  It’s a very odd disparity.  The Heat attempted 34 field goals in the paint in Game 3 and Boston had 32.  


In crunch time, Jaylen Brown canned a deep tray from the left wing with help from an off-ball screen by Horford, making it a 12-0 Celtic run. Boston was down a point and Miami needed a basket like an adrenaline shot to the chest.  


But the Heat got away.  Strus curled from the corner to the right wing and nailed a 3-pointer with Adebayo setting a pindown in front of him, making Grant Williams go under, buying time for the release, and starting a 7-0 run that created too much separation for the Celtics to recover from.    


Without Butler in the second half, Adebayo and co. pulled off a signature dub on the road, avoiding being down a game in any series this postseason.  Two down, two to go.



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Can Jimmy Butler and the Heat go all the way?

The Eastern Conference Finals began Tuesday night with Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. What started as a close game and the Celtics ahead, ended with complete second-half domination by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

Butler led Miami to a 118-107 victory thanks to his massive stat line. The Miami superstar ended Game 1 with 41 minutes played, 41 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. His offensive command was met with an equally paramount defensive showing. Butler recorded five steals and four blocks on Tuesday. The dominant play by Butler was complimented by the Celtics missing two of their most important players and Miami playing exceptional defense.

Looking back

Miami entered the third quarter down by eight points after Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown refused to get down in the first half. It was a somewhat surprising effort by Boston, as they were without defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart (foot), and Al Horford (health and safety protocols).

Being down at the half sparked some crucial changes for Miami at halftime. The player-led adjustments in the locker room inspired an entirely new approach to the game in the third quarter. Miami’s defense stole the show, allowing their team to go on a 22-2 run to start the second half.  The Heat went on to score 39 third-quarter points, allowing Boston just 14.

Butler’s dominance continued into the fourth quarter when he blocked a huge three-point shot for Tatum, elevating the energy, and nearly sealing the game for the Heat. 

The Celtics almost came back in the fourth quarter. But in the end, Butler couldn’t be stopped, and Miami’s defense wasn’t going to back down.

Looking ahead

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will take place tonight on Miami’s home court. Miami is at a huge advantage due to the fact they have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. Bam Adebayo and the rest of the Heat’s core players have already shown they can contain Tatum and Brown. What will happen when the Celtics’ defensive star comes back? 

Marcus Smart is rumored to be returning to the lineup for Game 2. This will provide another challenge for Miami’s defense, and another limit for Miami’s offense at the hands of Smart’s unbelievable defensive abilities. Per Shams Charania, Al Horford’s status will be available for for Game 2.

If the Celtics want to keep their chances of advancement alive, they will have to win on Thursday to ensure they don’t get too far behind. One thing is for sure, Jimmy Butler and the Heat don’t make it easy to come back.

***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Raina Rutschka***

  Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Jimmy Butler Channeling Dwyane Wade

As Jimmy Butler squared up at the free-throw line for his 17th and 18th attempts of the night, I wondered if the audience inside FTX Arena would shower him with roses. Miami was minutes away from a comeback win inspired by their marquee guy who had 40+ points in the playoffs for the fifth time as a Heatle.  


On the more taxing side of the court, Butler looked like a fighter jet gliding across different areas of the floor as he guarded his man or darted over to the paint and corners for help.  A possession earlier, JB tracked a left cut by Jaylen Brown starting at the top of the key and forced him to pick up his dribble by walling up with PJ Tucker. Next, Brown passed to Tatum at the strongside corner.  Butler then throttled towards Tatum’s airspace and spiked his triple into the stands.


I was about 20 feet from that play, standing at the start of the tunnel behind and next to some of the courtside seats.  The ball hadn’t made contact with a fan yet following the rejection, but the crowd erupted like Mount Vesuvius.  


It was the final stretch of Butler’s chef-d’oeuvre and he still looked possessed.  Similar to when an artist is spilling their soul into a microphone.  Like Jim Morrison when he sang “When the Music’s Over.”


The Heat had fallen into an eight-point hole heading into the intermission because they could barely hit a jumper from beyond the arc and were unable to stop Tatum from piercing the square on drives.  Aside from Butler, most of the production offensively came from the Heat’s sixth and seventh man, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo.


The three of them attempted 27 shots in the first half.  The rest of their six teammates who saw action had combined for 12.  


At postgame press, Butler sounded like a made man when he said to reporters, “By any means necessary…” when asked if his third 40 burger of the playoffs had tickled his fancy.


Butler was at the free-throw line 15 seconds into the second half.  Whatever observations were mentioned in the locker room during the break seemed to have invigorated him and the other starters.  Like a running back smashing through the line of scrimmage and obstacles in their path to the endzone, Butler lowered his head and blew past or through defenders for a layup or trip to the line.


Miami opened the third quarter on a 22-2 run with a steady diet of off-ball screens and pick and roll.  When Butler caught a pass in space, he baited defenders multiple times into biting on his pump-fake, earning more opportunities at the line after absorbing contact.  Who else have Heat fans seen perform that distinct move?  I’ll offer a hint: he’s getting a statue someday in front of the arena.  


Boston lost track of Butler routinely because of his off-ball pressure.  The ten eyes on the court usually trail the ball handler.  On curls to the wing, #22 would receive a handoff and bolt to the interior while attracting a pair of help defenders, leaving spots on the perimeter open.  Or he’d create a gap by flipping an off-ball screen so a teammate could get a running start towards the handoff.  


On post-ups, Butler swiftly spun to his right leaving his opponent confused in quicksand.


In the last 24 minutes, he registered 8/11 shots from the field and 11/12 freebies.  


“Jimmy Buckets” walked off the court like a rockstar exiting the stage after turning the crowd delirious while he channeled his predecessor, the great Dwyane Wade.  My sincerest apologies to Denzel Washington because when I think of “Man on Fire,” Butler is the first name that comes to mind.



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Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Down Goes Philly

True to form, Doc Rivers’ team got schooled in their building.  The first signs of the Philadelphia unfaithful turning on the team were midway through the third quarter as they booed the embarrassment inflicted on their eyes. 


Embiid hit the ground more than a soldier trying to evade gunfire.   The Beard looked like he was planning his postgame affairs.  And Rivers’ bald head was the only bright spot for Philly in Game 6.


With 9:13 left before the end, ESPN’s cameras caught a peek into the 76ers’ huddle.  Doc pleaded to his group, “Fight for this! Come on, guys. Fight for this!”  But his group looked as deflated as the Hindenburg.


Jimmy Butler– the one who slipped through their fingers-  was merciless leading his outfit and attacking the interior on cuts and torching Philly’s drop coverage in the midrange. With a minute left, #22 waved goodbye to the crowd as Miami inched closer to its eighth conference finals trip since 2005.


As expected, one of the excuses cited by the 76ers at post Game 6 press was that this version of their team had not been together for much time. James Harden said, “We tried to build a championship contender so fast, which I still think we are, we’re just missing a few pieces, but other than that you try to go for it right away…”


Sure, by default, their second-best player was not integrated into the rotations during training camp and had to learn the playbook at an advanced pace.  It probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference because when matters went sideways, Harden showed who he is at those times, too small for the moment.


This was the 10th time in the Beard’s career that he’s had zero free throw attempts in a playoff game indicating that his abilities as an escape artist are on par with Harry Houdini.


 The 76ers are no closer to winning a title than when Embiid and Ben Simmons first started sharing the court in 2017. This futile effort by their big-man suiting up four games might do the trick in convincing supporters or even ownership of that reality.  But what can’t be unremembered is that Embiid is a super freak who was used up by his club.  His face was battered, his thumb on his shooting hand was compromised and he was finessed into thinking this was worthwhile.


Before the 76ers left Miami, I asked Embiid at post Game 5 press about how much a spiked ball to the face deterred his interest in bludgeoning the rim.  He said, “I don’t know.  I’m just trying my best, honestly.”


Responding to another reporter, Embiid said he’d be called soft if he didn’t play, or if he did, they say he performed poorly.  Some might knock him for worrying about the media, but he’s human and words can be sharper than a spear.  


Right on cue, Charles Barkley claimed Embiid was ineffective because he was distracted by not winning the MVP award.  For reasons I don’t understand, people listen to Barkley give his drivel on the game when all he does is dumb down the audience.  If only he had a clue into how much Embiid cares.  


 Joel’s honest answers further enlightened my understanding of him as a warrior.  It made me uncomfortable to watch him squirm on the ground in pain as he was attended by his team. Then he got up.  And he still languished in the second half of Game 5.


Rivers did not consider sitting his best man the rest of that night following the close call.  I know because I asked him and sternly said no.


In the second half of Philly’s downfall, the 76ers couldn’t stop Miami from getting two feet in the paint, where Miami made 15/21 baskets.  The home team was outscored 50-42 in the final 24 minutes.


The playoffs never fail to show the public which teams are for real and who thought they were.  Miami’s got next with the winner of the Boston-Milwaukee series that’s 3-2 in favor of the champs.  If only Philly could have had more to say about it. 



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