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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Celtics Chill Heat With Second Half Surge

The Boston Celtics broke open a tightly contested game five with a 24-2 second half run en route to beating the Miami Heat 93-80 to take a 3-2 Eastern Conference Finals lead. The Celtics can advance to the NBA Finals by winning game six at home on Friday night. Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 25 points on 10-19 field goal shooting, and he had a game-best +20 plus/minus number. Jayson Tatum struggled with his shot for most of the game, but he finished with 22 points on 7-20 field goal shooting plus game high totals in rebounds (12) and assists (nine). Al Horford had a significant impact with 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Derrick White added 14 points and five assists off of the bench.

The Heat played solid defense but they could not survive their horrific shooting: 30-94 from the field (.319), including an abysmal 7-45 (.156) from beyond the arc. The Heat set a franchise single game record for missed three pointers. Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 18 points on 8-15 field goal shooting, and he also had 10 rebounds, while Gabe Vincent provided 15 points off of the bench on 6-12 field goal shooting, but the other Heat players combined to shoot 16-67 from the field (.239). Jimmy Butler, the Heat's best player, scored just 13 points on 4-18 field goal shooting. Miami's starting backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Max Strus shot a combined 0-15 from the field after shooting a combined 1-13 from the field in game four.

Both teams have players who are persevering through a variety of injuries, but the Celtics' superior size and skill are wearing down the Heat. This game was a microcosm of the series. Early in the second quarter, Miami led 21-17. At that point, Miami had shot 1-11 from three point range, and Boston had shot 1-9 from three point range. Many NBA teams rely too much on three point shooting, and this high variance style of play is a major reason that teams build (and then often squander) big leads. Over time, size and skill prevail because the bigger, more skillful team can score in the paint and in the midrange game while smaller, less skillful teams are forced (or choose) to rely on getting hot from long distance. 

As the game progressed, the Celtics demonstrated that they could score in the paint and in the midrange game. Their ability and willingness to attack from other areas of the court eventually unlocked their long distance game as well, and they shot 9-24 from three point range after their slow start. Meanwhile, with Butler struggling and Lowry unable to make a shot at all, the Heat jacked up three pointers and hoped for the best. More than a fourth of the Heat's field goal attempts in game five were three pointers fired by Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent--and they combined to shoot 4-24 from beyond the arc. With all due respect to those players, that kind of shot distribution is not a recipe for success in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

It seems like a long time ago that some commentators insisted that the Celtics should break up the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown duo. The Celtics ignored that noise, made their fourth trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in the past six years, and are in great position to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:44 PM



At Thursday, May 26, 2022 10:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me or are teams giving up more easily now than they did 30 years ago or so when I was growing up? Just seems like there's a general softness and lack of the never-say-die attitude of old? A team gets down big and they stay down. Last night's game prompted these questions. But thinking back just a couple of weeks ago, I just can't imagine two stars from the '80s or '90s, on the level of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, giving up to the tune of 21 points combined (3 at the half) in a Game 7 of the playoffs. Maybe the NBA's "load-management ethos" is showing its affects in some of these lackadaisacal playoff performances. You have to build up to playoff intensity over the course of a season. But teams are acting like there's a magic "ON" button.

Alas, Luka Doncic was a chip off the old-school block when he said: "Everybody acting tough when they up."

At Thursday, May 26, 2022 11:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that it seems like teams give up more easily that they used to, particularly in playoff games. It is true that there were blowouts back in the day, but they seem to happen more frequently now.

I also agree that Luka Doncic has an old-school mentality that is very refreshing. It used to be said, perhaps unfairly, that non-American players were soft, but if that was ever true (and I'm not sure that it was) it certainly is not true now.


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