Observations and other notes of interest from Wednesday night’s 93-80 NBA playoff loss to the Boston Celtics:
– Basically this was Heat-Knicks, circa late ’90s, without the fights.
– Defense ruled the night.
– And for as shaky as the offense was, a lot of that had to do with the defense.
– The work on that end was ceaseless.
– Which makes it the type of game where you have to be at your physical best to compete.
– Jimmy Butler (knee) is not.
– Kyle Lowry (hamstring) is not.
– Butler cannot be replaced.
– You ride him because there is no Plan B.
– But the Heat have shown they can survive without a diminished Lowry.
– Even amid this sludge, he was not up to the pace.
– He had four fouls without a point or assist when he went to the bench in the third quarter.
– So you hope it’s just the hamstring, and not the age (36).
– The Heat’s decision with Tyler Herro (groin) might have to be made or at least considered with Lowry.
– Because at a certain health percentage Lowry puts the Heat at a deficit.
– Of course, it’s not as if Victor Oladipo burst through that door.
– The Celtics, of course, have their own issues.
– Jayson Tatum with the shoulder.
– Robert Williams with the knee.
– Marcus Smart with the ankle.
– NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has had it with load management.
– But is it better to wind up with players, and teams, running on fumes at the finish?
– Yes, competitive.
– But tough to watch.
– The issue for the Heat was not the starting lineup, with Bam Adebayo, Butler, PJ Tucker, Max Strus and Lowry as the first five.
– Where matters had to be altered was with Herro missing a second consecutive game with a groin strain.
– With their starts, Butler and Lowry tied Buck Williams for 77th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– With his start, Butler tied Giannis Antetokounmpo for 99th on the NBA all-time playoff list, moving past Nos. 100 Richard Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
– The Heat scored their first basket on a Butler drive with 8:36 left in the opening period.
– A decided improvement from Game 4.
– But it also came after an 0-for-7 start from the field.
– The Celtics’ approach was altered early, with Smart called for his second foul with 8:09 left in the opening period.
– The Heat then called time at 3 of 14 from the field, including Butler 1 of 7.
– That’s when Oladipo and Gabe Vincent entered together with 5:18 left in the opening period, as the Heat’s first two reserves.
– Putting Tucker at center.
– Duncan Robinson then entered as third reserve, ahead of Caleb Martin and Dewayne Dedmon.
– Martin then made it nine deep for the Heat.
– As Dedmon remained spectator.
– The Heat’s first free throws came when Butler made it to the line with 6:22 left in the second period.
– Butler’s first 3-pointer moved him past John Stockton for 82nd on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Tucker’s first 3-point attempt moved him past former Heat guard Steve Smith for 75th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– Tucker’s first 3-pointer moved him past Byron Scott for 60th on the NBA all-time playoff list.
– As injuries have mounted this postseason, some, including Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have addressed scheduling that includes only travel days.
– Celtics coach Ime Udoka addressed the issue before Wednesday night’s game.
– “You start to minimize as much as you can in shootarounds and any time on court. You want to have their energy there and their legs there, so a lot longer film sessions,” Udoka said. “You know what the other team is doing and vice versa, but it’s just fine tuning a few things and then letting the guys get what they need, trusting that they’ll get what they need to stay sharp and stay ready but also stay rested . We’ll shave down some of the physical on-court activity and do a little more mental preparation.”
– But, for the moment, no solutions.
– “It is what it is,” Udoka said. “Guys are both dealing with it with both teams, and it is a kind of war of attrition and who can stay the healthiest, and that’s where the luck plays a big part in playoff series.”
– Celtics center Robert Williams III pushed through knee soreness in the first half, before being replaced in the second-half starting lineup by Grant Williams.
– Udoka spoke pregame of Robert Williams’ contributions.
– “Just his consistency on both ends, the threat that it gives us, vertical threat at the rim, five offensive rebounds the last game, so those extra possessions that we lack without him there, and then defensively a deterrent that guys are constantly looking for,” Udoka said.
– He added, “So those consistencies I’d say are just being efficient, as well. He Played low minutes in two of the four games and has been really efficient in what he’s been doing scoring wise, rebounding, and just shots overall. He brings a different dimension to us defensively, and I think that’s impacted Miami to some extent.”
– Udoka also addressed Tatum being named first-team All-NBA.
– “We talked about it as a team today, individual accolades are always a reflection of what we’re doing as a team, and obviously that one is special,” Udoka said.”
– He added, “That one really stands out for a lot of reasons. Basically a top five player in the league, and where we got to as a team, coming from where we were early in the season, it’s a reflection of that, as well, and he’s shouldered a lot of load, guys being in and out , injuries, COVID. He’s pretty much played through everything and been a constant, consistent presence for us.”
– The game was preceded by a moment of silence for Uvalde.
– DJ Khaled was back, minus the Erik Spoelstra shoulder rubs, as was Paul Pogba and former Heat guard Norris Cole.