5 Things the Boston Celtics Need to Do to Beat the Miami Heat in the Postseason
How the Boston Celtics Can Spoil the Miami Heat's Championship Hopes
The Boston Celtics, however unlikely it may seem, are starting to show that they may be the only true threat in the weak Eastern Conference to the Miami Heat's Championship hopes come playoff time. Last night, they nearly ended the streak in a way that would have had the Heat looking foolish if the Celtics had ended their streak without the likes of Kevin Garnett on the floor.
Instead, it was Jeff Green who came through with the game of his life, only to add to the disappointment when the Celtics blew a large lead and failed to match the Heat by a late jumper that sealed the win from LeBron James.
What the Celtics showed last night is that they can try beating the Heat at their own game. Strange as it may seem, these two teams are actually very similar. The Heat are more capable of scoring inside, but the Celtics made a deliberate effort to get Green the ball and let him work the lane last night. This formula was successful for about 46 minutes, and then a couple of late game turnovers from the Celtics allowed the Heat to claw their way back into a game they had no business winning.
So in actuality, these teams play a very similar brand of ball now. Without a true point guard on either side, these are two ball movement-oriented teams that both shoot a lot of jump-shots as well as rebound poorly. Their defensive schemes are similar as well and they both rely on help defense and rotations to try and shut one another down.
Although it was a heartbreaking loss for the Celtics especially after Green's career game, they should feel a lot better about their chances especially after nearly stealing a win without Garnett on the floor.
Team By Committee
All year long, the Celtics have not backed down when staring into the eyes of adversity, and last night was simply no different. With Garnett out, Green stepped up in a huge way and nearly carried his team to victory single-handedly. Green played the game of his life and all of his harsh critics will now think twice before talking simply because of the way he played in a game of this magnitude. A 43-point effort on national television to go along with seven rebounds and four blocks will certainly silence some critics. The "team by committee" formula for the Celtics continues to grow, and the next-man-up style of ball they play has really turned into something powerful and unpredictable, but it can also be inconsistent. It's time for Rivers to give Green the ball.
Green on James
Green has showed the ability to become a secret weapon when it comes to defending James in one-on-one situations. Finally, the Celtics have a way to at least be able to match-up with James and make his decision making a lot more difficult. Granted, James still scored 37 points, but he struggled from the floor and was mostly limited to jump shots. There's no easy way to defend the King, but Jeff Green looks to have an honest shot at limiting him on a nightly basis. It will never be easy, but with his athletic ability and length, it's starting to look like Green can hang with James not only defensively, but on the other end of the floor as well. Green is the closest the Celtics have come to finding the perfect defender for James in a long time.
Keep up with LeBron's Scoring
This may be one of the hardest tasks in basketball, but if the Celtics can get balanced contribution on the offensive end, they can hang with James and the offensive load that he carries. Last night, the Celtics pretty much did this with one guy in Green (who actually outscored James by six), but a balanced attack is much more of a necessity if the Celtics want to go punch for punch with James. The Celtics were nearly able to pull this off last night despite the absence of their second leading scorer. Again, this is easier said that done, but the Celtics are more than capable of winning a shootout with the Heat — they simply ran out of gas with such a thin rotation last night.
The Bradley Factor
A key to the Celtics' ability to get a lead last night was Avery Bradley's aggravating nightmarish pressure on the Heat ball handlers. He also helps them defend the three and when facing a team that has so many weapons from the outside, Bradley becomes of vital importance in shutting down a deadly offense. The only trouble with defending the Heat is matching up with the ball handler(s) since there is really no undersized guy like Bradley bringing the ball up. However, if the Heat let James bring the ball up the floor, then Bradley still has the advantage of harassing the Heat's perimeter players and forcing them to set up their offense later in the shot clock. This kid is starting to prove just how elite of a defender he is, but slight adjustments have to be made when playing the Heat.
There's simply no reason why Garnett and Pierce can't sing their swan songs for just a little while longer. Last night, Pierce nearly triple-doubled with 17 points and eight rebounds as well as assists. He may not have the quickness to defend James like he was once able to, but if he can both facilitate and hit big shots, there's no reason why the Celtics can't beat the Heat in a longer Playoff series. Garnett will also have to keep drinking from the fountain of youth and make sure that he's pounding the glass and still anchoring the interior defense. Last night, stopping the Heat inside became a problem as it seemed that they finally figured out that Garnett wasn't playing. A couple of combined efforts from these two future hall of famers could surely make the Heat's life harder. Not to mention, it could be both of their last seasons — no one wants to drive that final nail into either coffin, not even James.
The Celtics are a difficult match-up for the Heat on most nights, they just need a lot to go their way. But with Bradley and Green supporting the aging core, it's looking like a whole different team. If the Heat could take away anything from last night, it's that it's never going to be easy to try and take down the ever-proud Celtics.