A professional basketball team does not start a high-stack play-off game from 0 to 14 on the field without the help of its opponents. In Game 4 of the Miami Heat Eastern Conference Final, the ice cools, knocking from jump to jump from rim for about nine minutes, in the process digging an 18-1 hole into which the team will never get up. Miami’s reliance on midrange jumpers in the first quarter was probably due to fatigue, but a more significant reason is the heat hitting like a brick wall: Boston’s long and large defenders left absolutely nothing in the paint.
Boston has had a size advantage in this series from the start. Not just at literal heights, though they certainly have; Al Harford and Williams Grant and Robert save Dwayne Dedman, who is worse than any regular Miami contributor. What’s more, the trident, along with the long-winged Jason Tatum and Jillian Brown, plays so big that no hit player really matches. Bam Adebayo comes closest, but he is an attacking player who fills the void more than the real destructive ball in the paint. The rest of the hit depends on the regular rotation speed, shooting and finishing around the rim.
Typically, that setup can successfully blitz teams out of the game and that’s it There is This series has successfully blown Celtic. However, Ime Udoka deserves credit for launching a new game plan in the first quarter of Monday night’s game. The Celtics’ bigs went under every screen, especially when Jimmy Butler had the ball, and Miami had the courage to either drive in many limbs or settle for long jumpers. The Hit decides later, and Cold Shooting did the rest of the work to give Boston a lead that only made it to the fourth quarter, when it grew irresistibly.
With Robert Williams back in the lineup after missing Game 3, the Celtics were able to start him and Harford together against a hit lineup that had four perimeter players and Adebayo. From the first occupation of Miami, it was clear that unlocking it was a different challenge. Kyle ran a pick-and-pop with Lori Adebayo, hoping he might be able to take Harford out of the dribble. Instead, Williams came to stop the left-handed dribble, forced Adebayo to stop, and had to look for the open man long enough to push Harford’s ball away:
During Miami’s terrific stretch in the first 8 minutes and 40 seconds of the game, the team only got a clear look at the paint, missing the Max Strauss layup in about six minutes. Otherwise, it was a dam of brick jumpers. These were hard shots, allowing Boston to grab every rebound and push the momentum in the other direction. The Celtics did not play particularly well on Monday either. They probably should have been 18-1 when Miami scored their first field goal, and for the game, Boston shot only 39 percent from the field (23.5 percent from three). As embarrassing as the 20-point loss for the hit was, it was even more terrifying as a hint of what might happen as the series returns to South Beach for Game 5.
Eric Spoilstra and his accusers need to figure out how to get an easy basket against the best defense in the league and they have to do it fast as it turns into a three-game series. In particular, Miami needs to solve its Harford problem. The 35-year-old center was great on Monday, stuffing four shots during a great on-ball game and assisting the defense. Robert Williams is also a problem, although the repeatedly obstructed big man left the court in the third quarter and never returned. His condition for Game 5 is unclear right now, and his absence allows Miami to match Adebayo to Harford and bring him out of the ring.
That being said, Marcus Smart missed Game 4 with an ankle sprain and he could return to Wednesday’s game to give the Boston defense another annoyance. Miami (probably) won’t shoot as badly as Monday’s open shots, but Boston shouldn’t either. To win this series, they have to run back in transition and work to prevent Butler from having a knee injury; This series is a battle of wits — do what he does best: drive in paint and either create or finish.
Butler and the rest of the hit will have to get into the paint for another reason: to draw a foul. Boston had a 38-14 advantage in Monday’s free-throw effort. Boston was able to use its size to catch offensive rebounds and go straight to the top, drawing fouls in the process, while Miami had a clean jumper that could not draw any contact. After all, it’s hard to win when you give your opponent 24 more points off the line.
Miami’s problems are not unresolved, and the team may have stumbled upon a solution in a bench-versus-bench showdown that would otherwise have been largely useless in the fourth quarter. Duncan Robinson, despite being completely negative on defense, will have to play more to open the floor and pull players out of the ring. The $ 90 million sharpshooter has moved from three to 4-of-8 and Miami will probably need something up front, due to the fact that Strauss is the only real three-point shooter in the starting lineup. The possible return of Tyler Hero on Wednesday will also help, even if he has been a subpar throughout the series; When in his game, he is the only player in Miami without Butler who can occupy a quarter and score a run with a key shot to Boston.
For the Celtics, the main concern of Game 5 is health. If Williams misses any more time, or is not ready to go smart, the scales may return to Miami. If the two are able to play in something 100 percent similar, the advantage will be with the Celtics. In a series full of terrifying quarters for each team in turn, the first quarter of Game 4 is tempting to chase up a confusing match of this obscure match-up. It feels different, though, because Boston has finally entered into its power and so thoroughly dominated Miami’s ability to get into the basket that it can’t help it. If so, this season could be, and probably should be, earlier than anyone wanted in the heat.