Can Miami Heat hand the Boston Celtics their first loss since Oct. 18? Boston allowed over a 100 points in their two loses, but after those games held other teams to under 100 points in their next 8 consecutive contests. Their secret spans more than 50 years of Celts' history: Get the Ball.
Legendary coach Red Auerbach, along with Bill Russell, explains how the art of boxing out opponents to "get the ball" is part of Boston's DNA.
Offensively the Celtics do enough to win 16 consecutive games. It's on the defensive side that they check almost all the boxes for excellence: defensive rating - #1, defenseive rebound % - #1, steals - #7, blocks - #24, pts off tov - #2, 2nd chance pts - #1, pts on fast breaks - #4, points in paint - #10.
The Celtics don't focus on blocking shots or preventing points in the paint. Those strategies put them out of position to get the ball. Quite clever of them to take away the ball from other teams, and turn possession of the basketball into opportunities for Kyrie or Al on the other end.
The Celtics ability to get the ball away from the Heat hinges on the fine art of boxing out Miami players around the rim. In their first meeting the Celtics barely outrebounded the Heat, 41-40, but forced the Heat to commit 19 turnovers and 23 personal fouls. Without Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow had a monster rebounding game against his first time against Boston this season.
Heat vs Celtics
Simply getting more boards won't win the game when the Celtics have Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum on their team. But knowing they rely on getting the ball off the boards and into Irving's hands, taking away Boston’s rebounding edge could frustrate them and Kyrie.
Brad Stevens also knows the Heat loves hero iso-ball. Miami is dead last in the percentage of assisted 2 point makes at 39.6%. No team in the NBA makes more unassisted 2 point baskets, on a percentage basis, than the Heat at 60.4%. When Miami does get the ball, Boston will be ready for Miami's predictable sets on offense of pounding the air out of the ball.