Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Boston in Game 5
Back to Miami we go.
An embarrassing performance in game 5 by the Heat puts some pressure on them in game 6 at the Kaseya Center.
But first, we need to address tonight:
#1: Butler, Bam, Lowry: let’s talk…
Jimmy Butler: 2 for 7 from the field. Bam Adebayo: 3 for 9 from the field with 4 turnovers. Kyle Lowry: 3 turnovers. Those were some of the key first half numbers in a pivotal game 5 in TD Garden. Their best players were not their best players, and it’s really that simple. Butler has been a tone setter for a while for this team, and he completely looked out of it and disjointed. Plus he’s what makes this entire Heat offense run at the moment, so if he doesn’t have it, they won’t have it. Bam Adebayo was just as careless with the basketball as humanly possible, continually bringing the ball down to the floor for easy strips. He just was totally out of sorts and matchups were stumping him. And lastly, in a game without any ball-handler, they needed a big one from Kyle Lowry. Those 3 turnovers didn’t even tell the story, since his lack of aggression on pull-ups was major. A tough first half but harder to look past these 3 over the first 24 minutes.
#2: Turnovers and offensive rebounds…
To continue on that first half, the efficiency was surprisingly not the problem for the Heat’s offense, as it settled in around 50% for a majority of that time-frame. Instead, it was the turnover problem behind Adebayo and Lowry. They couldn’t seem to gain control to get into their usual actions, and that quickly bled into the defense much like in game 4. Bad shots equal an inability to settle into half-court defense. That is how the Celtics made their initial three point punch to start the game, as they played at a much faster pace. Now down to the defensive end, the offensive boards kept getting the Celtics extra and better looks from deep. When a team has that many extra opportunities, especially at home when playing into the crowd, it just hurts. Those two elements tied in very closely.
#3: Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson trying to hold it together.
To get away from what went wrong for a second, let’s talk about the guys who kept them in the mix for large stretches. Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin had close to half of Miami’s first half points, which says a lot. Martin continues to be the stable piece of this team, as he just keeps reacting to his individual defender. Taking triples, manipulating close-outs into attacks, and playing as strong on-ball as he possibly could. Duncan Robinson also found a rhythm inside in a certain lineup around 4 defenders, Butler-Martin-Highsmith-Bam, since the back-cut seemed to still be alive. Robinson was going to be crucial for this offense without the abundance of guards, since his action with Bam is a walking, living hub in the half-court. They played their role to perfection, yet still trailed by 17 heading into the third quarter.
#4: Two primary adjustments on the Celtics side.
So, as I sit here talking about the players for Miami not playing at the level that you would hope, the next question we should pose is ‘why is it happening?’ And well, I have some thoughts. Two main adjustments have been made by Boston, and the first one pertains to Jimmy Butler. It’s nothing matchup wise since he’s still getting the same switches, but instead the ways they’re reacting to him on-ball. They are not biting on pump fakes at all from him. He relies on positional shots after getting to his spots, and he usually manipulates his defender in the mid-range by getting them out of position. Tonight, they weren’t budging. Staying down on shot fakes was a clear focus. Now the second adjustment was even clearer, and it surrounded Bam Adebayo. Something they’ve done going back to last year is give up “mismatches” for him down low, due to the fact they want him to post-up. They feel that doesn’t equal good offense for Miami, and they’re probably right with his discomfort with his back to the basket. They’ll just send some help, knowing he will probably bring the ball low as I mentioned at the top of this piece. They would swipe and bother him, leading to all the turnovers. Boston adjusted and got to Miami. Now Spo and company needs to throw a haymaker back.
#5: So, what’s next?
All eyes on Saturday night. From up 3-0 to up 3-2, feels like a major chunk of this season comes down to taking care of business in their home building in game 6. The Heat desperately need to re-group after what we saw in game 5, which was a team with no identity and zero control or comfort on either end. They looked lost, and that needs to change. Playing into the momentum of a home crowd could help that, but they simply need their best guys to be just that. Not just Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but Erik Spoelstra as well. If the Heat want to win, it’s probably going to need to be an Erik Spoelstra masterclass. Adjustments will need to be flying, and that started tonight by playing Haywood Highsmith. Yet offensively, they need a new wrinkle in the half-court, and Spoelstra has continually showed in the past he holds something back. We will see what that is, but those three headlining pieces are going to need to mutually come to play in 48 hours.
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