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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