One time, just to stay abreast of GOP dogma, I hate-read conservative author George Will’s 600+ page tome on the state of American government. It cost me 9 days, some fine bourbon and part of my hairline. I’d rather do that again than watch Boston stumble their way into blowing 4th quarter leads.
In my opinion, this game could have been handily out of reach before the 4th quarter began. A few mental lapses by the Celtic’s defense and a key match-up decision allowed Miami to get some easy looks. Fortunately for Boston, the alterations they need to make are not overly difficult to implement. What are they?
Abandoning The Perimeter/Over-helping
Tying my self-esteem to Celtics wins is a dangerous game. So, by prepping you loyal readers for this Miami offense, I was subconsciously prepping myself. Shoot, I thought I did a decent job at it too.
One area I missed covering was how to defend the Heat’s 3-point shooting. You may have heard Doris Burke proclaim that Miami led the league in 3-point percentage this season. During Game One they garnered plenty of open shots and did so by drawing Boston defenders into the paint then kicking out to open shooters.
Boston repeatedly sent one too many defenders into the paint as helpers. Teams without strong man-to-man defenders have to do this against the Heat, but Boston is not one of those teams. When it mattered most, Miami was able to take advantage of frantic Celtic closeouts.
Frustratingly for Cs fans, Boston demonstrated that they can perfectly toggle between paint and perimeter protection. Jimmy Butler – who played poorly for 44 minutes of regulation – could not find an open perimeter shooter to pass to. It is only after he dishes to the cutting Bam Adebayo that Boston sends help in the form of a block by Daniel Theis. They must continue to stay closer to floor spacers and trust their individual defense.
Who Guards Goran Dragic?
I can tell you who shouldn’t. Dragic attacked Kemba Walker throughout the entirety of the game. Walker cannot be faulted for his effort yet, Dragic has about four inches on the Celtics guard. Sensing this, the Slovenian international attacked the hoop early and often.
Relax, Celtics fans. I can promise you that we will see less of Kemba guarding Dragic in Game Two. Lock it in. Expect to see Walker assigned to either Jae Crowder or Duncan Robinson. In exchange, either Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown will likely be guarding Dragic.
While Smart is unquestionably the team’s best one-on-one defender, it may make more sense to have Brown defend Dragic. Why?
Jaylen struggled mightily with his off-ball defense during Game One. By switching him onto Dragic the Celtics can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will Walker be less of a defensive liability, but Brown will spend more time defending on-ball instead of off-ball.Tweet
Off-Ball Defense & Communication
I swear to you that I have aged about nine years watching Boston surrender backdoor layups. I’m not ready to be in my mid-30s yet, and hopefully the Celtics aren’t ready to go home either. In order to make the NBA Finals, they must tidy up their off-ball defense and communication. I’m looking at you, Mr. Brown.
During the clip below he needlessly overplays Butler on the perimeter and gives up a cut to the basket. Additionally, he simply picks up the wrong person in transition to allow a significant bucket while the Cs were trying to put away the game. In a regular season game Boston can have these occasional mental breakdowns and still walk away winners. The margin for error becomes smaller during the Eastern Conference Finals, however. It’ll take a start-to-finish effort to win the series.
Jaylen was also involved in some communication breakdowns. At one point, Kemba Walker grew visibly frustrated with Brown for a mishap that led to a relatively easy Dragic bucket. Miami was at their best when the pace of the game quickened. This makes sense. A faster pace leaves less time for defenders to bark out instructions and results in confusion.
When Boston plays talkative, switchy defense, however, they can shut down any team in the game. Their very first defensive possession proved this. Watch as they blow up screens, communicate, switch and contest a late shot clock triple. If this level of defense is consistently played throughout the series then Boston will be favored to advance.
All in all, Boston played well last game. At points, their defense looked as sharp as ever. Offensively they must find ways to breakdown Miami’s zone. This should improve (especially if Gordon Hayward returns!) The Celtics were the better team for the majority of the game last night and can build larger leads if these defensive shortcomings are fine-tuned.
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