The Miami Heat entered game 4 up 2-1, and the Celtics were clearly desperate.
But the issue with that: the Heat looked the exact opposite of desperate.
Much like the theme of this series, one team dominated the game, which in this case was the Boston Celtics.
So, here are some takeaways on what went wrong for the Heat…
#1: I can count the Miami Heat’s first half buckets on one hand…
6 of 32. What do those numbers portray? Well, that’s the Miami Heat’s shooting from the field in the first half, excluding Victor Oladipo. They didn’t have a made field goal for like 3/4’s of the first quarter, leaving them with 11 points over that initial 12 minute span. Jimmy Butler didn’t look like himself, Bam Adebayo’s aggression wasn’t there and they were collapsing on him in the lane, and the perimeter players like Kyle Lowry and Max Strus were being absolutely blanketed. The Boston defense deserves credit for flattening Miami out, but bunnies wouldn’t even drop for the Heat in that half. Short on floaters and mid-range pull-ups, which was the spot on the floor they kept funneling them to. No Tyler Herro created extra half-court hurdles, but that wasn’t the absence. It was a complete team offensive absence. Actually, except Victor Oladipo.
#2: Well, Victor Oladipo showed up.
Why is Oladipo being mentioned briefly throughout the beginning of this piece? That’s because he was the only player who made a first half appearance, as he scored 18 points off the bench in that first half. For one, it’s sometimes just as simple as saying he got in a rhythm and hit some shots, but he created those things himself with his early approach. Right when he entered, his mindset was clear: I’m going right at defenders to get to the basket. That line of thinking puts so much stress on an individual defender, leading into his success in iso ball. The Heat didn’t have one workable set or functional player, so they allowed Dipo to work some magic in isolation. They saw good results there, especially in contrast to the rest of the team. The last time Herro missed a game, which the rest of the team missed as well, Dipo dropped 40. And now we see this. He looks comfortable, but maybe it’s time to give him some more on-ball time.
#3: Could Miami eventually give Robert Williams the Bam treatment?
Marcus Smart was ruled out in game 4, but Robert Williams made his return to the lineup. It’s clear his impact is felt every time he plays, not just defensively, but as a vertical threat on the offensive end. His size and rebounding skill has given the Heat some trouble, but the true topic with him is on defense. And well, it’s clearly adjustment time for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat. Yet while watching him operate on that end by covering ground and protecting the rim, it brings you back to the way other teams treat Bam at times. Could the Heat find ways to pull Williams away from the play? Playing 4-on-4 could be positive or negative depending on context, but finding a way for a shooter to draw that switch and clear could lead to some good outcomes. The focus is offense, but I’m interested to see Miami get to that more.
#4: So, how can the Heat adjust their offensive approach?
Instead of evaluating the 48 minutes played in this game, let’s make a quick shift and look ahead to the next 48 minutes of this series. Heading into this match-up, one thing was clear about this Heat team in terms of blaring weaknesses: the half-court attack could become problematic. And looking at tonight, as I touched on earlier, it’s one thing to miss open shots and another to generate a poor shot profile overall. The latter feels like the more important element here. Tyler Herro is a major part of this team’s offensive success, but do you know the only way to make up for that? Jimmy Butler rim pressure combined with kick-outs to shooters. When neither of those things are clicking, it’s going to be a long night. Bam Adebayo also followed up his aggressive showing with a quiet night, but it definitely was a focus to flatten him out. Shooting being a non-factor means less room for Bam to operate, plus he just wasn’t aggressive. So an offensive adjustment must be on the way.
#5: So, it’s 2-2 by the way.
It’s no doubt that this was a horrible loss. But so was game 2. And so were games 1 and 3 for Boston when eyeing the context. Moral of the story: this is a long series. After the Celtics stole one back in Miami, the task for the Heat heading up to Boston was pretty clear. Just steal one. And they did just that in game 3, while the Celtics came out in game 4 with the necessary urgency. Momentum just isn’t a thing in this Eastern Conference Finals. Right when you think one team possesses it, the opposing group kicks you right in the mouth. But now it’s a clean slate. The Heat are currently tied with the Celtics 2-2 in the series, turning into a best of 3 to get to the Finals. They positioned themselves to have home court advantage, and now it’ll come in handy. Now it’s just about taking care of business back home on Wednesday in game 5.
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