Pregame Post-Ups: Heat Pose Major Threat off the Dribble

Wednesday, November 22 - Celtics at Heat

Pregame: Heat Pose Major Threat of Driving to the Basket

MIAMI – Brad Stevens said this morning that the Miami Heat are “one of the best driving teams in the league.” So how do the Celtics combat that?

Stevens has watched his defense perform at an incredibly high level all season, but has also been studying the Heat for the last 48 hours in preparation for tonight’s matchup. He is well aware that keeping the Heat out of the paint is going to be a heck of a challenge.

“They put you in a tough spot because they can shoot the ball as well, so you have to be out at the 3-point line,” he said. “I don’t think you can overextend the floor, depending on the matchup. But you have to be out and you have to provide appropriate resistance without fouling. That’s really hard to do. It’s easier said than done.”

It would be one thing if the Heat only had strong shooters, or only had strong drivers, but they have both, in addition to an All-Star-level center in Hassan Whiteside, who did not play during Boston’s win over Miami three weeks ago.

“When Whiteside is rolling to the rim, he demands a lot of attention,” Stevens explained, “and when you have to help, and then when they kick out, you’re in close-outs and that’s really tough.”

Miami ranks second in the league in drives per game, with an average of 52.9. That average trails only the Toronto Raptors, who average 56.4 drives per game.

Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters both rank in the top nine in the entire league in drives per game, with averages of 15.5 and 15.1 per game, respectively. That duo accounts for more than half of Miami’s drives each night, on average.

That means all of Boston’s perimeter defenders, from point guards like Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart to wings like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, are going to need to be prepared to defend with the appropriate resistance that Stevens alluded to.

Doing so is easier said than done, as Stevens indicated, but it’s certainly doable when you own the best defense in the NBA by a landslide.

- Marc D'Amico