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Will Miami Heat’s defense stop Boston Celtics for a date with Los Angeles Lakers?

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106 points should be enough to win a game, but if the defense disappears then the game is a lost cause.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Five Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Heat failed to match the Boston Celtics’ intensity on offense in Game 5’s third quarter. The Heat’s defense appeared confused as the Celtics put 41 points on the board against a zone defense they were prepared for as Coach Nick explains in his video.

“The Heat have used a specific type of action to great advantage in this series, and Coach Nick goes into detail about how it works. However, when they abandoned this action (and started playing zone), the Celtics stormed back to life to save their season - for one game at least.”

[Jimmy] Butler is completely lost not knowing who is supposed to be guarding [Kemba] Walker and just trailing the ball,” Coach Nick said at the 8:45 mark. “That leaves Tyler Herro all by himself against both [Jaylen] Brown and [Jayson] Tatum.”

In other words, when the Celtics figured out how to score against the Heat’s zone defense, Miami appeared lost on both defense and offense. As the cliché goes, “defense leads to offense.” Maybe the defense breaking down rattled Miami’s offense into making desperate, ill-advised shots.

The importance of championship caliber defense is illustrated by the player who leads Miami in Net Rating against Boston: Solomon Hill. In limited action his 28.2 NetRtg dwarfs the number two rating of 3 by Bam Adebayo. The same is true in Plus/Minus stats per 40 minutes: Hill 13.8, Adebayo 2.9. The point is Hill isn’t even a genuine scoring threat, but a defensive specialist.

The Heat won’t go far in the playoffs allowing opponents to score 121 points per game. It’s true Miami made only 19.4% of their 3-point field attempts, but having to score 122 points or more to win a game isn’t a recipe for success in the playoffs.

In their wins against Boston, Miami’s defense was much more disruptive: deflections, 17.3 in wins, 11.5 in loses; loose balls recovered, 9.0 in wins, 5.5 in loses; TOV% for Celtics, 16.7 in wins, 12.5 in losses.

A more aggressive defense forced the Celtics into settling for outside shots. In the second half of Game 5 the Celtics shot only 27.3% beyond the 3-point line, after making 37.5% of those in the first half, which is 10% lower. Meanwhile they made 70.8% of their 2-point attempts in the second half, versus 41.9% in the first half. Looks like Boston took advantage of a zone’s somewhat passive approach in the paint, versus the aggressive fight of man-to-man defense in the same part of the court.

Are the 3-point shooting woes due to shooting slumps or something else? The defense leads to offense approach suggests a lockdown defense breeds a confidence that carries over into a better offense. If the Celtics ramp up the pressure on offense, then the Heat need to do the same on defense and give back even harder. With LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers possibly coming up next, there is no other choice to win the next five games.