2020 NBA Playoffs: 10 key questions before the final of the Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference


The Boston Celtics tricked in seven matches by the Toronto Raptors to earn a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Miami Heat needed only five to knock out the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams are stingy and bad-tempered defensively and both take offense from a variety of sources. Third-seeded Celtic are widely considered favorites, but the Heat is nothing but a typical No. 5 seed. Here are 10 questions to preview the series starting on Tuesday:

1. Can the Celtics handle the Miami area?

Boston has not found the Raptors in the past on the strength of their offense, which looked particularly out of sorts against zone coverage. The box-and-one made it difficult for Kemba Walker to drive his rhythm pick-and-roll, and for Boston to make shots, which they usually do. Miami knows this, and he played more zones this season than any other NBA team.

Maybe the second round has prepared the Celtics which is to come. They were in problem-solving mode the entire time, and their coaching staff would make sure they wouldn’t be surprised if the Heat start zone 1 in 2-3 zones. It is also possible, however, that zoning is just one effective way Boston tackles perfectly when he has the ball: to deliver to Walker and set the screen for him.

The one thing that can make the zone redundant is another playmaker and shooter in the lineup, which brings us to …

2. What’s up with Hayward?

Gordon Hayward went through a small group workout after practice on Monday and “looked good when he was going through it,” coach Brad Stevens said, “but in doing so and really in a game There is a big difference between being. ” He will not play in the opener, but if he is available after that and can approximate his game in the regular season, he could change the Celtics’ sense of offense.

Hayward only had a 20.6 percent usage rate this season, but that largely underlines his skills and how important he can be in such a series. The thing that makes Boston unique is that, at full strength, it can cause matchup problems with players with four perimeter, making it difficult to defend zero from any of them or hide a weak defender. Hayward is as comfortable making plays for others as he is for himself, which cannot be said about Jason Tatum or Jaylen Brown, so his presence naturally gives the offense more pop. .

3. How will Celtic match up defensively?

The luxury of starting four multilateral defenders is that Stevens has all kinds of options. I am most interested in who is Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo at the beginning of Game 1.

First-team all-defense guard Marcus Smart is the obvious choice to slow down Dragic, who was one of the league’s best reserves in the regular season and has been an unprecedented starter in the playoffs, a major Miami success for the offense Driver. Tatum is a tricky option, though, and he may be able to disrupt Dragic’s rhythm with his length – both he and Brown spent a lot of time guarding Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVelt in the second round. Obligation).

Daniel Thies seems like the default matchup for Adebayo, but I bet Boston will get creative at some point in the series. If Stevens experimented with Brown or even Smart at that, you could try to bully Rim from Adebayo in his own way and get to the free throw line. In that scenario, however, the big man is often the one who is dishonestly called. Which brings us to …

4. Can the Celtics deal with bomb stuff?

In The Adebayo, The Heat gets an amazing amount of stuff that is not often seen by opposing teams. On offense, he is a totality, like a hybrid of Drymond Green and Domantes Sabonis, unconventional All-Stars in their own right, but with far more leg speed and explosiveness than either.

Adebayo would push the ball away from the defensive rebellion and the Heat would deflect the easy bucket with a dribble-handoff. When he has the ball at the elbow, Miami defends the same way the Golden State Warriors did with a screen and cut, which often ends with Adebayo earning an assist – and if he feels That if you are playing him for a pass, he will. Gladly attack the basket. Boston knows all about his chemistry with Duncan Robinson, and if it decides to hide Theiss elsewhere, it’s probably for switching purposes when the two of them are involved in an action.

5. Is the match against match-hunting Heat?

The Celtics’ offensive stance may be completely different than in the second round. “Isolation is not the answer,” Stevens said two weeks ago, but now it can be. While the Heat can be a devastating defensive team, their rotation has some weak individual defenders. The Indiana Pacers were at their best in the first round when they made one-on-one attacks against Dragic, Robinson and Tyler Herrow. Miami could counter it by giving Andre Igodala and Derrick Jones Jr. more minutes, but that would mean sacrificing a vacancy at the other end.

Boston is uniquely suited to exploit the Heat here, especially when they are switching ball screens. The Celtics have been very much a pick and role team in these playoffs and have had little success in isolation, but championship contenders need to be able to play differently against different opponents. This matchup made me think of their second-round series two years ago, in which they repeatedly targeted Philadelphia 76ers JJ Redick, Dario Saric, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

6. Will the heat remain warmer than deep?

Miami changed in a fundamental way when it replaced Meyers Leonard with Jay Crowder and Harrow recovered from injury. Prior to Crowder’s debut on February 9, Miami was ninth in the 3-point frequency and second in accuracy to clear the glass. In seeding games, with the HERO healthy, only the Houston Rockets shot the 3s more often, but its percentage dropped to 35 percent, which is around the league average. In the playoffs, the Heat have played the best of both worlds: 41.9 percent of their shots are 3s and they have made 38.5 percent of them. Both marks are in fourth place.

It would be difficult to stop Miami if Crowder, a former Celtic, continues shooting 40 percent on 8.3 attempts per game. Boston rivals usually take too many 3s, but make up a low percentage of them; In the second round, Toronto shot 30 percent or more in all four of its losses.

7. Can Hero keep it?

Herro has made 40 percent of his 3 in the playoffs, but that doesn’t tell the story. He is making them in crunch time, he is making them out of the dribble and more importantly he has earned the confidence of coach Eric Sposlatra as a playwright. In the seeding game against the Phoenix Suns, he had 25 points, 10 assists and eight rebellions; In the clinic against Buck, he had 14 points, six assists and eight rebellions.

The Celtics, along with their army of wing defenders, are Herro’s biggest challenge. I could try to get them out by applying them to smart.

8. Can Boston defend without fouling?

Butler came in line for one game nine times in the regular season, and that number reached 10.7 in the playoffs. Dragic and Adebayo can wreak havoc this way, and the Heat led the league in free throw rates in the regular season (and finished second in the playoffs). This is something to see, especially because Celtic were 24th in free throw rate and are physical in both perimeter and paint.

When Boston commits dishonesty, the culprit is often this. Grant Williams, who closed out Game 7 against Toronto at center, also picks up fouls on the inside. Which brings us to …

9. What is Celtic’s frontcourt rotation?

When Adebayo is out of court, Miami has either replaced Kyle Olenik in his place or gone without a big man. In this regard, Boston is less predictable – if Stevens wants vertical spacing and shot-blocking, he can call Robert Williams; If he wants mastery and sound rotation, he can go with Grant Williams; If he wants aggressive rebounding and post-up scoring, he can try the Annes Kneeter. Seeing Semi-Ojele against Adebayo for a few minutes in 5 minutes would not shock me either.

His game typically consists of 25–30 minutes of play, but he received 47 in double-overtime in Game 6. If Stevens is looking for some offensive punches, he could go with Robert Williams or Canter if Thies goes to the bench. They both leave Boston unprotected against Miami’s pick-and-roll, however, I doubt there will be an opportunity here for either Grant Williams or Ojelle, both officially to play “foot” at 6-foot – Has been listed at 6.

10. How will Miami match defensively?

If Heat does not choose to use a ton of area, here are several small questions:

  • If Hayward is starting, where do Dragic and Robinson hide?
  • How will they use Adebayo?
  • How much will they switch?
  • Who guards Tutham?

Boston could remove Hayward from the bench, at least for the first time, but if he starts (and is effective) Miami may have to consider getting Robinson or Dragic out of the starting lineup for Igodala. It makes sense to put Adebayo on this because he can switch the walker’s ball screen and otherwise roam as a help defender, but if Tatum is going, Spoelstra can throw Adebo on him is.

After guarding Giannis Entetokonmpo, Crowder could draw Tatum assignments. However, butlers may be more suited to this. These matchups don’t mean much to everyone, however, Spoelstra should decide to switch everything up.