Celtics Heat Preview – NECN
Celtics-Heat preview: Why Miami presents a very different test than the Bucks originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics have just beaten the defending NBA champions in a grueling seven-game series, sending the Milwaukee Bucks home with an impressive 109-81 rout in Game 7 on Sunday.
Their reward? A break day.
Boston’s East Finals series with the Heat begins Tuesday night in South Beach, as the C’s take on a well-rested Miami team that eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.
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Not only will the Celtics get a quick turnaround from their slugfest with the Bucks, but they’ll also have to adapt to a club with a very different style of play than Milwaukee. How are the Heat different from the Bucks, and what do those differences mean for Boston’s chances of making the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years?
Let’s destroy them.
1. 3 point defense
The Celtics made a whopping 110 3-pointers to the Bucks’ 57 over their seven-game series. But all three will be much harder to find against Miami.
As the Bucks clog the paint and challenge you to beat them from three, the Heat guard the arc more aggressively: Opponents shot 33.9% from 3-pointers against Miami in the regular season, tied with Boston and Golden State for the lowest percentage in the NBA. The Sixers have attempted just 199 threes in their series with the Heat, 93 less than the Celtics against the Bucks.
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Miami’s defense is smaller and more agile than Milwaukee’s, which boasted an elite paint defense with Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo but was vulnerable to outside shooting. The Heat’s frontcourt of Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker is better equipped to defend the perimeter, so the Celtics shouldn’t rely on Grant Williams to get open looks in this series.
Instead, the Cs should make it a point to attack the paint, where they should encounter less resistance than they did last round against Lopez and Giannis.
2. Scoring depth
The Bucks’ offensive strategy was simple: send the ball to Antetokounmpo or Jrue Holiday and get out of the way. This duo represented 56 percent of Milwaukee’s shot attempts against the Celtics.
Miami, however, is a much more balanced offensive team. While Jimmy Butler carried the scoring load with 28.7 playoff ppg, the Heat also have a dynamic big man in Adebayo (14.6 playoff ppg), the sixth man of the year. title to Tyler Herro (13.8 points) and a two-time All-Star to Victor Oladipo, who stepped up in Kyle Lowry’s absence. Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and PJ Tucker are also good outside shooters.
That’s not to say the Heat are an offensive juggernaut; they ranked 17th in the NBA in points during the regular season, and Boston’s elite defense should have more overall success against Miami than in the previous two rounds against Brooklyn and Milwaukee.
But after focusing all of their attention on Antetokounmpo for the past two weeks, the Celtics will need to change their mentality to defend a team that distributes wealth far more than the Bucks.
Celtics-Bucks might have been a shorter series if Milwaukee hadn’t dominated on the glass. The Bucks racked up 76 offensive rebounds to the Celtics’ 53 and won the rebound battle 346-299. They stole Game 5 by generating 20 second-chance points from 17 offensive boards, including a Bobby Portis comeback in the final seconds.
The ECF should be a different story: Miami ranked 22nd in the NBA in rebounding this season and has no real threat on the boards outside of Adebayo.
The key for Boston will be limiting second-chance points, as the scrappy Heat are averaging 15.6 second-chance points per playoff game, the most of any team that made it through the first round.
If Robert Williams is able to adapt in Boston, the Celtics should be able to win the rebound battle, but they’ll have to keep the Heat out of the offensive glass to prevent them from getting additional opportunities.