July 2, 2022

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The NBA Finals-link Celtics beat the Heat with perfect defense, but does that prepare them for the next test?

The NBA Finals-link Celtics beat the Heat with perfect defense, but does that prepare them for the next test?

six days ago Boston Celtics They won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on the road, and they desperately needed to win Game 4 on their home soil. They were down 2-1 in the series, and were coming off a disappointing loss at the time Miami Heat Star Jimmy Butler didn’t play a minute in the second half.

During coach Im Odoka’s pre-game press conference last Monday, a reporter asked about an unusual stat that has turned into a talking point: The Celtics have lost just two quarters in three games. The important thing, Odoka said, isn’t how many 12-minute periods they lost, exactly, but “to be consistent and not fall off a cliff like we did in those two quarters when our attack isn’t flowing.” Boston had allowed 39 points in the third quarter in the opener, and gave up the exact same number in the first quarter of Game 3.

“More than anything, we like to keep teams in the mid-20s from twelve per quarter,” Odoka said.

The Mid to low 20 seconds. That, in the 2022 NBA, is a ridiculous goal. This is the league it is in Oklahoma City Thunderthe worst offensive team, averaged 103.7 points per game, about 26 points per quarter.

But for the Celtics, it proved reasonable. In their four wins against Miami, their defense has had 26 points or fewer in 13 out of 16 quarters. One of the other three came Interval on Sunday 100-96 The Heat scored 32 points in the second quarter of Game 7, thanks to Butler’s brilliance and Boston sending them to the free throw line over and over again. The other two were in the fourth quarter of blast wins.

Of the 28 quarters that included the series, Miami managed over 26 points only nine times, including the two that were trash time. The Heat are an elite defensive side as well, and they had a chance to beat this one, right down to the last minute, but their attack – above average in the regular season – often turned into a Thunderesque.

“We couldn’t control the game,” Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said. “A lot of that was Boston. We didn’t stop grinding and gave ourselves a chance to finally make it happen. We couldn’t make enough plays during the course of the game. We felt like for most of the game we were grinding from an eight to 10 point deficit.”

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That’s what the Boston defense does. In the second round against Milwaukee BucksIt was just as stifling: another seven-game streak, 19 more quarters in which the Celtics allowed 26 points or less, and four more wins in which the opponent only cleared that number three times. The Bucks scored 99.4 points per 100 midfield games in the regular season, which ranked sixth in the league, in cleaning up The Glass, and scored just 81.9 points per 100 in the midfield against Boston. (As a reference point, the Oklahoma City and Detroit Pistons finished the season with a tie for last place: 88.6 per 100.)

In the Heat’s four losses in conference finals, they scored 85.2, 65.7, 58.8 and 75.9 points per 100 half-court games, respectively. Just before Sunday’s info, ESPN aired footage of Odoka in the locker room He told the Celtics not to let Miami have easy buckets early, be disciplined, take care of the ball and protect the defensive glass. Throughout the playoffs, when he avoided Boston silly things Compelling his opponent to try to score against a defense group, he has always managed to thrive, both at home and away.

“In game seven, the Celtics hit all the goals we wanted,” Odoka said. They finished 13 turns, and only three of them led to the chance of heat transfer. They won the recoil battle and ceded only nine second chance points. Miami 6 to 30 shot from a 3-point range. After cutting Boston’s lead to three with about 11 minutes to play, the Heat missed nine consecutive shots, remaining goalless for more than four minutes.

“Defense is our identity,” Odoka said. “She was there and she held us, we had hard times when the offense was not clicking. Games when the offense was not up to par, we can always count on that. And that was the case tonight. We got a lot of leads, we downplayed it and we continued.” In getting our stopping points when we needed to.”

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In a picture-perfect defensive possession at this stretch, Miami’s Kyle Lowery spent most of the 24-second shooting period looking for an advantage, ultimately giving Victor Oladipo a chance to attack the basket using a dribble. When Oladipo took off, Al Horford was there with him. Oladipo attempted a reverse layup, but Horford intercepted it with his left hand and immediately got the rebound:

Miami got a layoff after that, then looked for an early attack. Pam Adebayo handed it to Butler, but with Jalen Brown under the screen and Horford in a drop, Butler decided not to attack immediately. Adebayo put up another screen, Butler refused and Brown stayed with him on his lead, then stayed on his fake pump. This forced Butler into a desperate and hotly contested leap:

A few minutes later, the Heat ran a side game out of bounds for Max Strus. It worked, I think, in the sense that it was able to create a triple indicator. But look at Tatum, switch to him, stay connected and rival the shot, then see how far Strus is from the basket when he gets into his shot – this is a deep, difficult and uncomfortable look:

Horford proudly spoke after the game about the Celtics chasing the bowlers around the ocean. He said it was difficult to protect Strauss and described Lowry as “very skilled”. When Miami crime is at its best, it attacks you with a mixture of mismatched hunting, transitional gameplay, action and shooting. For the most part in Game 7, I felt like the only thing working for the Heat was the hero’s butler ball. If Butler can’t create anything, the acquisition could end, for example, turning Derek White into Laurie and forcing a terrible transformation 3:

In a series this tight, the Heat will surely wonder if playmaker and hitter Tyler Hero, who has played just seven minutes in Game 7 and missed the previous three games with a thigh injury, could have made a difference. Boston would have chosen him on the other side, though, because she did not believe in letting poor defenders off their predicament. If a good attacking player harms your defense and thus helps the Celtics defend them, how much does that player help in attack? These are the crazy questions that Boston forces opposing teams to think about.

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Throughout the playoffs, it was the same story for the Celtics: They are terrifying defensivelyAnd while they do experience some setbacks, mistakes, and sloppy stretches, they tend to find themselves before it’s too late. This was true in every first round match against Brooklyn Networks – One of the earliest sweeps in NBA history – and that was true of both subsequent series.

“It’s hard to win in this league, especially in the playoffs,” Brown said. “Any night, things can go differently, but a good team is able to respond. A good team is able to give their best every night. There were two games we felt left out, and instead of carrying it like baggage and wearing it like an experienced badge to help us prepare for the next match.”

For Brown, Game 7 was “the biggest test, not just of the year, but of our career.” Now that they’ve passed it, their reward is even greater. For months, the Celtics were the most balanced team in the NBA, and they showed against Miami that they were more than happy to win games in the mud. The Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all have great balance, and they’ve put together great defenses before. The Heat has skillful impromptu in Butler and Lowry, who are kind of warrior-like in the way they try to free and dangle shooters from the post, but no one does the Golden State things with the speed, shooting, and transparency that would condemn Golden State.

In the finals, aiming for a mid-20s to low might actually be silly, even for Boston. The way the Celtics see it, however, they must be stronger than ever, precisely because of what they just survived.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going in,” Odoka said. “I know it’s another tough challenge. I think Miami will help us prepare us for some off-ball action and the shots they have. But we know it’s a high-level team, an executing team, with a lot of great shooters, great players in general, guys I know well. And we’re ready for the challenge.” .