So we got an Eastern Conference Finals rematch on Friday night, immediately following a tough opening night performance for the Miami Heat.
Consistency felt like one of the main issues in this one, since even though the offense or defense was there at times, they just couldn’t sustain it long enough.
Even after making a late push, it wasn’t enough to steal a win against this gritty and skilled Celtics team. So here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Tyler Herro: flattened offense to rim attempts to a fully open shot diet.
For scorers like Tyler Herro, the start of games hold high importance. It may sound wild, but he’s a rhythm player who needs to find his way a bit before truly popping. But that wasn’t the case early in this game. The Celtics were really flattening out the expected pick and rolls to come with Bam Adebayo, leaving Herro in a weird spot offensively. Then a few minutes into the second quarter, he found his way. Herro began getting to the rim a bunch, which is the true cursor to fully opening up his entire shot menu. That led into the free throw line floater opening up. Then the three-point shooting. Then the play-making. It’s a domino effect for Herro, but the ability to get out of the mud a bit at the start of games is a good sign.
#2: Bam Adebayo comes out aggressive…again. Just with different result.
After Bam Adebayo struggled on opening night against the Chicago Bulls, the topic about his scoring ability wasn’t the usual headliner: aggression. He was definitely getting shots up, they just weren’t dropping, which tends to happen. But the process was there. That stayed strong early in this game against Boston, as he wasn’t afraid to dive into the shots that Boston was giving him, which pretty much began and finished with the mid-range pull-up. Those jumpers led him to a 12 point first half stat line on 6 of 7 shooting. My point the other night was that inefficient nights for him will be fine throughout the season, as long as there’s a similar process along the way. Even though tonight had a bit of a different process with some early foul trouble.
#3: Where’s the movement?
In terms of the downside of Miami’s X’s and O’s, I must say I was expecting Miami to lean much more into their motion offense this year. They have multiple movement shooters on the floor together at times, a decent amount of on-ball creators, and a couple athletes. That roster construction screams nonstop movement, especially when linking that player grouping to the Miami Heat. But we’ve seen a lot of stagnant two-man actions early in this season, while the weak-side spacers are simply spotting up. Of course that can be the case depending on the action you’re running, but this team won’t be a successful scoring team off a bunch of isolations. I think they will find their identity here soon, but something to keep an eye on.
#4: The importance of the Kyle Lowry pull-up 3.
After talking about some of the minor negatives of the offense so far, it’s also important to talk some positives. And after a bad opening night for Kyle Lowry, he bounced back with some crucial buckets throughout. More specifically, it’s pretty clear that his pull-up triple changes the game for this team’s half-court offense. When he doesn’t take it, the defense goes under to flatten it, and it usually just ends up in a congested pass to the roller or resetting swing pass. Yet when he’s taking it, it puts more pressure on not only the on-ball defender, but the off-ball helpers. That’s the way to bend a good Celtics defense, and it’s with one single shot. It’ll be intriguing to monitor the efficiency and volume of it, but that’ what’ll make Lowry’s presence extremely helpful.
#5: A much needed defensive pick-up.
As I talked about the other night, Miami’s defensive rotations just weren’t there. This time around, it wasn’t as much the rotations. Instead it had many of us glued to their defensive layout. The Celtics are a heavy shot creation team, especially considering their molded around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With that said, they enjoying picking their isolation matchup at any given moment. They were able to do that pretty easily at times with Miami’s switching, while yes it may have it’s perks with the randomized helps and doubles, just needs some type of mix-up against a team like Boston. The thing I’ve been advocating for is a mix of drop once in a while with Bam Adebayo on the floor. Maybe that says something about the point of attack defense in that first unit, but some defensive creativity and unpredictability is needed for this group with 80 games to go.