Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over the Celtics
The Heat played a big one on Wednesday night against the Celtics in Boston, and they stood strong in many of the weaknesses they had attached to them.
Max Strus came up huge after shaky moments, Kyle Lowry took over, and the Heat stepped up big in clutch time.
So, here are some takeaways from this one…
#1: Tyler Herro and Miami making adjustments to start.
As Miami walked into the locker room at halftime, it was clear a 1 point lead was a win for them. A second quarter run from Boston raised an eyebrow at Miami potentially bouncing back, but the adjustments for Tyler Herro were interesting to me in general. There’s still much less comfort against switching than drop, but lucky for him, it’s a pick your poison thing with this impressive Celtics defense. Herro was being swarmed a ton in his early minutes, mostly since he was running into easy switches with guys like Jimmy Butler or PJ Tucker screening. Simply, he needs Bam Adebayo to set him up. The reasoning was that he needed to gain a rhythm by going at Al Horford in that drop. He did climb up to 10 points at the half, and it leads to a takeaway that Spoelstra seems to feel most comfortable shifting Herro around offensively than anybody.
#2: The broad idea of pace fluctuations.
Speaking of that Boston run in the second quarter, it looked like Miami was rattled for a minute. Turnovers were peaking, they began to play faster as Boston had transition success, and the lead began to swing. Aside from this game in itself, I truly believe it’s something to keep an eye on. Why? Well, the person that controls the pace in a game that the Miami Heat are involved seems to be a bigger swing than it should be. When Miami starts trailing the play-style of the opponent, things don’t lean in their favor. It doesn’t matter if it’s that they need to slow it down or speed it up in a certain span, but just having that control is an important element of this basketball team.
#3: Bam Adebayo’s defensive importance: something you know already.
While many were probably screaming at their TV at times in the first half for Bam Adebayo to begin attacking Boston’s bigs, it must be reminded that there are two sides of the ball. And for a portion of the game, Adebayo was wrecking first options for the Celtics very often. Many times we see it through Miami’s game-plan of forcing Tucker and Adebayo to switch onto the respective guard and big on that team, but they went the Giannis Antetokounmpo route in this one. What I mean by that is he shifted to weak-side excellence in this one, and his help was pretty elite for what he had to deal with on the other side, in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. You may hear a lot about Smart and Williams on the ESPN broadcast for defensive player of the year, but the ability to move Bam around defensively will be Spoelstra’s key defensive card in the playoffs.
#4: Kyle Lowry’s “real season” coming alive?
When zooming in on the third quarter specifically, Kyle Lowry was the definition of their offense from start to finish. He kicked off with two pull-up triples out of the high pick and roll, which is one of the most important elements of this team. Yes, not just Lowry, but this team. Defenses worrying about that shot gives Lowry all of his powers to dissect coverages in the half-court with his passing. That led to an immediate zip to Bam Adebayo in the middle of the floor, and a perfect feed on a backdoor cut to Jimmy Butler to begin the 3rd. The one question that I had walking away from that quarter was this: what happens when Lowry exits? That’s how big he was in terms of total control, which ties into recent discussions about spacing. It’s clear that when the playoffs roll around, Lowry needs the ball in his hands. A lot.
#5: Late-game offense evaluation time.
When heading into this game, I said on a Five Reasons Sports pregame show that the topic of the game would be late-game offense. For one it’s just that type of match-up, and second of all, there are two high level shot creators to create in clutch time during the Heat’s biggest time of weakness. As the score stayed close and the time trickled down, we saw Miami staying in base sets for a decent amount of time starting at the 6 minute mark. As Lowry checked back in the 4th, it was clear that the clutch time offense starts now in a game like this. But more importantly, the base sets were familiar since there was space to operate, as Butler stayed at the 4. Miami continued to spam one thing and one thing only: Lowry/Bam PnR, Strus/Herro spacing in each corner, Butler looming. That’s the formula to good looks in the clutch.
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