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Caleb Martin proves his worth
The Miami Heat re-signed him, not P.J. Tucker, a year ago.
All throughout the 2022-23 Miami Heat regular season, fans clamored for a P.J. Tucker replacement. I did it. The thinking was that Caleb Martin was a nice wing off the bench, but would be overmatched as an 82-game starting power forward (even if he bulked up).
Now, with the Heat up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, we see that it may have all worked out in the end.
Kevin Love played just 15 minutes last night. Martin, by contrast, played 32. He dragged Robert Williams out to the arc and sunk 3-pointers over him. He drove to the basket against Williams and made layups over him. He scored 25 points last night, just behind Butler’s 27 to lead the Heat.
The Celtics have gone away from the two-big lineup of Al Horford and Williams for large stretches. Williams checked out for the first time last night less than five minutes into the game. Williams also didn’t play much of crunch time last night, only subbing in with 49 seconds left after taking a breather with 7:41 left in the fourth quarter. We’ll see what adjustments Boston makes for Game 3.
Through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals last year, Tucker had made just two 3-pointers — one in each game. Martin has made six 3s — three in each game — thus far in this year’s series against the Boston Celtics. Those six 3s, of course, include the huge one in Game 1 that gave Miami a 117-110 lead with 2:10 left to go. Boston decided to leave both Tucker and Martin open, but Martin is more willing to take the shots.
Tucker signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers last summer. Martin signed a three-year, $20.5 million deal at the taxpayer midlevel exception. Considering the age gap between the two — Martin is 27 years old, Tucker is 38 — and the production we’ve seen from Martin in the playoffs, it looks like the Heat thought Martin could grow into a role that exceeded what Tucker offered Miami last season. And it’s coming to fruition.