Not since game 3 against the Indiana Pacers have we seen the Miami Heat struggle this mightily.
Outside of LeBron James 34 point, eight rebound and five assist effort in 43 minutes of action, the Heat didn’t get much from anybody. Mario Chalmers chipped in another solid 14 points and Dwyane Wade needed 20 shots to get to 18 points. Wade didn’t take a free throw in a playoff game for the first time since his first ever playoff series in 2004.
Mike Miller had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, but they mostly came in the fourth quarter when the game was already well out-of-reach.
Joel Anthony, James Jones, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Ronny Turiaf combined for 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Battier led the charge with an impeccable zero points on 0-of-6 shooting from the field. We’ll give him a pass because he’s still playing excellent defense on Brandon Bass, a player who outweighs him by at least 20 pounds.
Miami was able to play well without Bosh for the final three games against Indiana and the first two against Boston, but it was obvious to tell how dearly they missed him in game 3. On both sides of the ball, the Celtics were a smart enough team to begin exploiting the Heat’s significant weakness in the middle.
On offense, Miami went through an anemic eight minute stretch where they failed to score a field-goal. It took them nine shots and nearly six minutes into the second quarter before they finally got a basket. It began during the LeBron James-centered lineup, ran through the Dwyane Wade-centered lineup and ended shortly into the lineup featuring both players.
The Celtics were able to shut the Heat down for so long because they were able to pack the paint without the threat of a jump shooter. Without Bosh spacing the floor with his mid-range game, the Celtics were able to apply relentless pressure at the top of the perimeter, while continuing to clog the paint.
Not to mention that it allows Kevin Garnett to cover the entire court. If he’s being matched up with someone like Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf, he’s going to be allowed to get away with applying pressure to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James near the perimeter. Since Bosh isn’t in the lineup, it’s led to constant double teams on Wade, who has been having significant trouble getting anything to go in the first halves of the past few games.
In this series, Wade is averaging four points in the first half and 18 in the second half. It’s a dangerous game to play and it hurt the Heat in game 3. Dwyane struggled yet again, but the Heat weren’t able to compensate for his shortcomings which led to the Celtics leading by 13 going into the half.
Doc Rivers and the Celtics are a smart team. Arguably the smartest and most mentally tough in the league. They finally began to make the necessary adjustments to limit Wade and James by continuing to force them out of the paint by throwing double teams at the two. The biggest problem for Miami is that they’re not taking advantage of having an open player.
That’s what happens when you’re missing out on your lone consistent mid-range threat and big man; the opponent’s big man is allowed to roam around on defense freely. When the Heat are running a pick-and-roll, Garnett isn’t going to chase after Anthony, Turiaf or Haslem, he’s going to hone in on the ball-handler.
As horrific as the Heat’s offense looked last night, it was no match for the nightmarish defense that took place. The Heat allowed Boston to score 101 points–the second consecutive game they’ve allowed 100 or more points–on 50 percent shooting. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett combined for 45 points on 19-of-32 shooting.
Speaking of those two, they’re essentially the reason the Celtics ended up winning this with such ease. Instead of relying on the jumper of Garnett, the team made it an issue to feed the ‘Big Ticket’ inside throughout. It resulted in 58 points-in-the-paint for Boston, the first time they’ve beaten the Heat in that category in seven matchup’s this year.
Once again it falls on not having Bosh. As good as defenders Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf and Udonis Haslem can be, they don’t have the necessary length to limit Garnett. They can’t front him because his hands are incredible and he’s receiving excellent passes down low from Rondo.
The idea of fronting may have worked against Roy Hibbert and Indiana, but it’s not now that the Heat have to face a team that knows how to work it inside. Not to mention that the player they’re attempting to front is a former MVP who has been playing the game professionally since 1995.
While Bosh isn’t that stout of a defender, he provides the length to at least force Garnett into jumpers. His quick feet would limit the drives of the Celtics power forward. Also, the energy Garnett would have to use to defend Bosh on offense would do significant work on the effort he gives on the offensive end.
As much as Magic Johnson tells you, the Boston Celtics aren’t back in this series. The Miami Heat will make the adjustments in response to Rivers and the Celtics adjustments. They’ll end up finding a way to keep Boston out of the paint and hopefully figure out a solution to making sure that the game is run at their tempo, not Boston’s.
Once the game is slowed down, Boston immediately has the advantage. That teams knows how to run the half-court because of the abundance of shooters, passers and overall experience. Miami has to make them work for their points by making them run with them.
The Heat’s biggest advantage is their athleticism and endurance. They need to find a way to use that for 48 minutes in order to continue compensating for the loss of Bosh.