By John Schmeelk
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I found it fascinating this morning to read all of the different takes and reactions to the Heat’s loss to the Celtics last night. It seems like most people have finally stopped taking the easy way out and jumped off the “blame LeBron” bandwagon for the time being. Even though he wasn’t a dominating force in the 4th quarter, LeBron did finish with 30 points and 13 rebounds. One of his two assists found Mario Chalmers for a wide open three in the in the 4th quarter. People are finally looking deeper and many are surprised what they are finding.
What shocked me the most last night was how the Celtics were faster to the ball than the Heat were in the 4th quarter. On those 50/50 plays where either team could come up with the loose ball it was constantly the Celtics that did. The Heat are the younger, faster, quicker and more athletic team and there’s no excuse to look slower than a geriatric Celtics team. Similarly, the Heat defense in this series has been lacking. Against both the Hawks and the Sixers, the Celtics looked downright offensively incompetent at times. They are playing their best offense of the playoffs against the Heat, a reflection of Miami’s defensive intensity and execution.
Even when the Heat have been able to control the Celtics offensively, they haven’t been able to take advantage. In the first half last night, the Celtics shot 33% and LeBron went for 18 points, but the Heat only led by two. Eleven Miami turnovers turned what could have been a first half blowout into a nail biter. Overall, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to shoot 20-54 from the field. The Celtics should have virtually no chance of winning with those shooting numbers from three of their top four players. The Heat, meanwhile, couldn’t get anyone in double figures who wasn’t named LeBron or Dwyane. Chris Bosh was effective in limited minutes but was mysteriously left on the bench down the stretch when Miami needed him most.
So what does all this mean? One, it means that Doc Rivers is out-coaching Erik Spoelstra. This should not be a surprise to anyone, but Spoelstra’s lack of adjustments during this series has been startling. The Heat offense always looks the same, and their final possessions invariably come down to LeBron or Wade trying to create off the dribble from 25-30 feet away. The Celtics are too well coached and disciplined defensively for that to be effective. As teams become more familiar with each other over a course of a series, adjustments must be made. The Heat have not done that. If this series ends in six games, Miami will have a new coach next year.
The second thing this means is that the Celtics might just be a better team. They’ve played as well or better than the Heat in four of the series’ five games. They have been better defensively and play better team basketball. They’re also hitting their shots in the 4th quarter, whether it’s a star like Paul Pierce or a role-player like Mickael Pietrus. Having the best stars is great but more often than not it’s the best TEAM that wins championships. Ask the Mavericks last season.
I’ll preview Game 6 tomorrow, but I don’t see the Heat winning unless they get all-world performances from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Heat have been poor on the road all year, and I can’t see their role-players coming up big in Boston. If that happens it will be a long offseason of introspection, and potentially change, for the Miami Heat.
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I realize the Thunder have outplayed the Spurs for three straight games and they seem to have figured out how to beat San Antonio. They are also extremely hard to beat at home. With all that being said, I just don’t see the Spurs going quietly into the night. It will be a tight and entertaining game, but I think that the Spurs will find a way to win and get the series to a Game 7.
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