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Coup’s Takeaways: Bam Adebayo Hits Go-Ahead Jumper To Take Down Boston

1. Some games can only be described as regular season games, and there were plenty of shenanigans early in this one that would fit that moniker. A lot of fouls, a lot of lineups that don’t play much together, a lot of missed shots, a lot of fast breaks gone awry and, in Boston’s case given that they were missing a large chunk of their rotation, a lot of players thrust into roles they don’t often play.

Still an entertaining start, minus the foul stoppages, just a weird one lacking in much rhythm or consistency. Thanks in part to Max Strus starting 3-of-3 from deep Miami was able to swap multiple small leads with Boston, neither team gaining much separation nor looking like they were about to earn it. Then came the muck. Miami led 50-47 with 2:12 to play in the half, but as they were missing 14 of their last 16 shots Boston ran off a 11-0 run to go up 58-50 at the break.

For a brief moment it looked like Boston might pull away after that, but as their (eventual 17) turnovers mounted – picking up some offensive fouls on Jayson Tatum after his fast start helped quite a bit – the HEAT managed to keep the damage mostly within single digits even while their own shots wouldn’t stay down. Eventually a pair of Victor Oladipo threes broke the cold stretch and the HEAT got it within five. But with Tatum resting at the beginning of the fourth Boston managed to push it back to 10.

Good thing for Haywood Highsmith (15 points on seven shots), hitting a pair of threes and pressuring Tatum out past the arc. And good thing for Bam Adebayo, the only player on the floor for the HEAT able to generate consistent looks, consistently pushing in transition to scramble Boston’s desired half-court matchups. Three minutes after that double-digit deficit, things were tied. Soon after, Miami by five. Suddenly it was Boston that couldn’t hit anything as the HEAT ran off a 15-0 run. Still a tie game in the final minutes, when Adebayo caught the ball at the free-throw line with Payton Pritchard switches onto him and calmly drained the go-ahead jumper for an eventual 98-95 victory. The Celtics scored just 13 in the final period.

2. In a season where slow offensive games have hardly been a rarity, this was certainly one of them. No, Miami didn’t have the one player who generally gives them their possession-to-possession stability in Jimmy Butler, and even shorthanded Boston has plenty of good individual defenders, but as much as any other night this season this one was about the struggle to make shots. They made up for it by taking a ton – 20 more than Boston thanks to turnovers and offensive boards – and that’s what kept them hanging around. It’s just tough to win games shooting below 40 percent – especially when you’re being consistently pushed into the mid-range – when your opponent is making half of its shots when not giving the ball away. The HEAT’s half-court Offensive Rating finished at just 80.6.

Somehow, none of it mattered. With that sheer attempts advantage keeping them around, all it took was some threes by Oladipo and Highsmith to close the gap and consistently excellent play from Adebayo – owning the upper painted area as usual against whatever matchup he drew – as he scored 30 on 22 shots with 15 rebounds. The offense hasn’t been pretty, but with Adebayo the HEAT always have a chance. And in the playoffs, winning pretty doesn’t count for anything extra.

3. With 21 points and four assists in the first half, there wasn’t much the HEAT were able to do in this one with Jayson Tatum. And with Tatum missing most of his ballhandling compatriots – Boston was relying largely on Derrick White and Payton Pritchard for all of its dribbling needs – this one felt a bit more like last Friday against Dallas than in a typical Celtics matchup. The HEAT tried throwing many of the usual tactics they employed against Luka Doncic – or a Trae Young – shading to toward the ball without outright breaking their defensive shell with a hard double, and Tatum handled it nearly as well. But where Doncic was happy to get off the ball early when he felt the defensive commit coming his direction, Tatum, perhaps feeling the burden of needing to put points on the board, was much more patient. He would try to pull out Miami’s help, almost as if he wanted a hard double, and either use that space to set up a matchup he wanted with an off-ball screen or force the HEAT into closeouts after being stretched to their limits.

The second half wasn’t nearly as smooth. Miami kept the pressure up – Highsmith was consistently excellent with his teammates flanking him – and Tatum started making mistakes, turning the ball over and getting called for push offs as he tried to create some space. Tatum’s early patience turned into far more deliberate isolations against pressure as he chained multiple moves together only to come up empty. After those 21 in the first, Tatum finished with just 31 to go with seven turnovers. This game was a testament to the value of pressure and how it can wear down even the best players if you’re consistent enough with it. This team has redirected most questions about offense to commentary about their defense all season for a reason. They know where the bread gets buttered.