All that matters is what’s next, plus other Heat-Celtics thoughts – The Mercury News

Observations and other notes of interest from Monday night’s 102-82 NBA playoff loss to the Boston Celtics:

– Because this is who the Heat largely have been for most of the season.

– When good, very good.

– When not, very not.

– Even in advancing 4-1 against the Hawks in the first round, there were uneven moments.

– There were more of those moments in closing out the 76ers 4-2 in the second round.

– And now, arguably again their first opponent of championship-level talent, it has been even more uneven in what now stands at 2-2.

– At times, very good.

– At times, moments like Monday, when you wonder about age, injury and the lack of pure scoring.

– And this was about more than Tyler Herro being out.

– Because nothing from Herro to this stage created an impression that he could have salvaged this.

– For weeks, there has been scoring-binge Jimmy Butler.

– And there has been sore and banged up Butler.

– We have witnessed dominance by Bam Adebayo.

– And dormancy from Adebayo.

– PJ Tucker as a revitalizing force.

– And Tucker as every bit of his 37 years.

– Max Strus shooting star.

– And Strus as a struggling supporting player.

– Then there’s Kyle Lowry, the little engine that could.

– Or the injured Lowry who can’t.

– A bench that can boost.

– And a bench that can go bust.

– During the regular season, flaws can be masked.

– Because there are plenty of bad teams.

– During the opening round, the opponents had their own issues.

– But now this has gotten very real.

– Arguably, the Heat’s 2021-22 season will be defined in what now is best-of-three against the Celtics.

– And that’s the thing, even with Monday’s mess, the Heat are two wins from the NBA Finals.

– Merely needing to win their two remaining home games in the series.

– The opportunity is there.

– Of course, it could have been there Monday, the chance to seize a moment when the Celtics were without Marcus Smart.

– Opportunity lost.

– So back to Boston for a Friday Game 6, regardless of the outcome in Wednesday’s Game 5 at FTX Arena.

– What matters most for the Heat. . . begins now.

– For as much as the Heat had to deal with when it was announced at the morning shootaround that Herro would be out with a groin strain, the biggest thunderbolt came 90 minutes before tip, when the Celtics announced that Smart was out due to an ankle sprain.

– Celtics coach Ime Udoka had spoken of considerable swelling for Smart, who had been listed as questionable throughout the day.

– That had Derrick White starting in place of Smart, just as he did in the Celtics’ Game 1 loss at FTX Arena.

– Robert Williams III (who also had been questionable, due to the knee soreness that kept him out of Game 3), Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown rounded out the Celtics’ starting lineup.

– The Celtics entered 5-8 this season in Smart’s absence, including 1-1 in the playoffs.

– The Heat opened with Adebayo, Tucker, Strus, Butler and Lowry.

– Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon and Victor Oladipo then entered before the Heat scored their first basket.

– Duncan Robinson and then Caleb Martin entered, with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra having no issue going 10 deep even without Herro.

– With the start, Tucker tied Derek Harper, Paul Millsap and Richardson Jefferson for 100th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– With the start, Lowry moved past Terry Porter for 79th on the NBA all-time playoff list.

– With the start, Butler tied Tim Hardaway for eighth on the Heat all-time playoff list.

– And then the game started.

– And then it was over.


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