Coup's Takeaways vs Boston 10/21/22

Coup's Takeaways: HEAT Drop Conference Finals Rematch As Offense Comes Alive

1. In a strange, roundabout way this one felt like a direct continuation of the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston was getting the better looks and for most of the game they had answers to all of Miami’s answers to the Celtics’ answers, but Miami was also the more composed team and every time Boston’s lead reached double digits they clawed back into the game with shotmaking and defensive playmaking. Plenty of performances on Miami’s side to note, but the tale of the game, almost at least, as it was for most of last May’s series, was the turnovers differential. Boston gave up the ball 19 times, Miami just nine – more than enough to keep the window open until the final minutes.

In the end, Boston won 111-104. But, and you might not believe me here, it was as encouraging an early-season loss might be at least in the wake of Wednesday’s loss to Chicago. That’s because in addition to the HEAT playing typically hard – something that doesn’t often get enough credit for delivering regular season wins – they got a bounce-back performance from Kyle Lowry (17 points on 13 shots), a wonderful second half from Gabe Vincent (14 points) as he drilled jumper after jumper, a great game from Bam Adebayo despite foul trouble and plenty of what you expect from Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro (shouldering a huge offensive burden with 21 shots). No, Miami didn’t solve Boston’s switching scheme any more than they did last season, but it was a complete team effort that, if you watch it in a couple days without the emotions of live action, would lead your mind toward a future of the same solid two-way results this group’s roster portends. The HEAT are 0-2, but it was in the second loss where their identity came to the fore.

2. If you’ve been among the many calling for Aggressive Bam, you got it tonight. With Boston giving him a little bit of a cushion whenever he caught in the mid-range, Adebayo was happy to not only take advantage with the jumper but to drive the space, going 6-of-7 in the first half for 12 points. Unfortunately Adebayo (19 points on 11 shots) was also in foul trouble for much of the duration – until he played just about the entire fourth – so we didn’t get to see his game fully play out, and that wound up spelling trouble. Miami was plus-20 in Adebayo’s 34 minutes as the presence of he and Butler gave Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum just a little more pause when they were electing whether to attack the paint or go for a jumper. That means the HEAT were minus-27 when Bam was off the court, with both Dewayne Dedmon and Haywood Highsmith being used at center and the HEAT playing small almost the whole way through – smaller than usual, at least. Boston is going to punish a ton of second units this season with their depth. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s a little kernel of goodness that Adebayo’s minutes were so positive even if it took a good amount of shotmaking to make that happen.

3. Speaking of that shotmaking: while the score was 59-51 at the break in favor of Boston, careful watchers probably noticed the amount of open looks the Celtics were getting. Through two quarters, the Celtics had not only taken eight corner threes – some of the best shots any team can get – to Miami’s two, but only put up five non-rim two’s to Miami’s 18. In a vacuum, that type of shot diet would favor Boston, but at this point in the season there’s too much we don’t know. Is that just Boston being as good as Boston is? Is any of that now intended based on how Miami has tweaked their offense? How many of those non-rim two’s are good or bad shots if Herro and Adebayo have taken steps forward in their shot creation? We don’t know any of that yet. What we do know is that for long stretches of the game Boston was getting the better opportunities, and that’s never a good thing. The HEAT made up for that deficiency with inside-the-arc shotmaking (19-of-36 on non-rim two’s) and overall shot taking – at the height of their mid-third run they had attempted 13 more shots than the Celtics as was often part of their formula for success last season, and they finished the game with the same attempt advantage. Winning in the mid-range might not be the plan every night, but Boston tends to force the HEAT into a playoff diet and it’s better to show you’re capable of making those shots you’ll have to take starting in April.