Home / Sport / NBA 2020 Playoffs: 10 key questions ahead of the Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals showdown

NBA 2020 Playoffs: 10 key questions ahead of the Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals showdown

The Boston Celtics squeaked from the Toronto Raptors in seven games to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Miami Heat only needed five to take out the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams are stingy and tradable on defense, and both take offense from a variety of sources. The third-seeded Celtics is widely considered the favorite, but the Heat are far from a typical number 5 seed. Here are 10 questions to preview the series, which starts on Tuesday:

1. Can the Celtics manage the Miami area?

Boston failed to outrun the Raptors on the basis of his attack, which looked particularly out of place against zone coverage. Box-and-one made it difficult for Kemba Walker to find her rhythm by performing pick-and-roll and for Boston to generate hits the same way they usually do. Miami knows this and has played more zones this season than any other NBA team.

Maybe the second round has prepared the Celtics for what̵

7;s to come. They have been in troubleshooting mode the whole time and their coaching staff will make sure they won’t be surprised if the battery starts match 1 in a 2-3 zone. It’s also possible, however, that zoning is simply an effective way to fight the best thing Boston does when he has possession of the ball: give it to Walker and set the screens for him.

One thing that could make an area less sustainable is having another director and shooter in training, which leads us to …

2. What’s up with Hayward?

Gordon Hayward had a small group practice after training on Monday and “looked good when he was facing it,” said manager Brad Stevens, “but there is a big difference between doing it and actually getting into a match.” He won’t play in the first round, but if he’s available later and can approximate his play in the regular season, he can change the feeling of the Celtics offense.

Hayward has had a usage rate of only 20.6 percent this season, but that drastically underlines his abilities and how important he can be in a series like this. What makes Boston unique is that, at full strength, it can create matchup problems with four perimeter players, making it difficult for defenses to focus on any of them or hide a weak defender. Hayward is just as comfortable creating plays for others as he is for himself, which can’t be said of Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, so his presence naturally lends the offense more pop.

3. How will the Celtics line up defensively?

The luxury of starting four multi-position defenders is that Stevens has all kinds of options. I’m more interested in who is on Goran Dragic and who is on Bam Adebayo at the start of the first game.

Marcus Smart, defending guard of the first team, is the obvious choice to slow Dragic, who was one of the best reserves in the league in the regular season and was a phenomenal starter in the playoffs, a huge driver of Miami’s success up front. Tatum is an intriguing alternative, however, and may be able to break Dragic’s pace with his length: he and Brown spent a lot of time overseeing Raptors guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet in round two (and presumably both. will draw Jimmy Butler duty).

Daniel Theis looks like the default matchup for Adebayo, but I bet Boston gets creative at some point in the series. If Stevens experiments with Brown or even Smart on him, you can expect Adebayo to try to make his way to the edge and reach the free throw line. In that scenario, however, the big man is often the one called for the phallus. Which brings us to …

4. Can the Celtics handle Bam’s stuff?

The Heat get an incredible amount of miles from Adebayo by doing things opposing teams don’t see too often. In attack he is a total wacky, a kind of hybrid of Draymond Green and Domantas Sabonis, unconventional All-Stars in all respects, but with much more speed and explosiveness than the foot of both.

Adebayo will push the ball out of defensive rebounds and find Heat easy buckets for dribbling. When he has the ball at his elbow, Miami confuses defenses in the same way as the Golden State Warriors, with screens and cuts often ending with Adebayo earning an assist – and if he feels you’re playing him for the pass, he’ll happily attack the basket. alone. Boston knows all about her chemistry with Duncan Robinson, and if she decides to hide Theis elsewhere, it’s probably in order to change when the two are involved in an action.

5. Is matchup-hunting the answer against the Heat?

The Celtics’ offensive approach may be completely different from that of the second round. “Isolation is not the answer,” Stevens said two weeks ago, but it could be now. While the Heat can be a devastating defensive team, they have some weak individual defenders in their rotation. The Indiana Pacers gave their best in the first round when they attacked Dragic, Robinson and Tyler Herro one on one. Miami can counter this by giving Andre Iguodala and Derrick Jones Jr. more minutes, but that would mean sacrificing spacing on the other side.

Boston seems particularly suited to take advantage of the heat here, particularly when ball screens are changing. In these playoffs the Celtics have been much more than a pick-and-roll team and have had little success on their own, but the championship contenders need to be able to play in different ways against different opponents. This meeting reminds me of their second round of shifts two years ago, in which they repeatedly targeted J.J. Redick, Dario Saric, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

6. Will the heat stay that hot from deep inside?

Miami changed fundamentally when he replaced Meyers Leonard with Jae Crowder and recovered Herro from injury. Prior to Crowder’s February 9 debut, Miami was ninth in frequency by 3 points and second in accuracy, for Cleaning The Glass. In seeded matches, with Herro in good health, only the Houston Rockets fired 3s more often, but their percentage dropped to 35%, which is around the league average. In the playoffs, the Heat had the best of both worlds: 41.9 percent of their shots were 3 and they made 38.5 percent. Both brands are in fourth place.

Miami will be hard to stop if Crowder, a former Celtic, continues to shoot at 40% with 8.3 attempts per game. Boston opponents typically take a lot of 3’s but make a low percentage; in the second round, Toronto got 30% or worse of all four losses.

7. Can Herro continue like this?

Herro made 40% of his 3 in the playoffs, but that doesn’t tell the story. He is doing them at a crucial moment, he is taking them out of dribbling and, above all, he has earned the trust of coach Erik Spoesltra as a playmaker. In a seed match against the Phoenix Suns, he had 25 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds; in the decisive test against the Bucks, he had 14 points, six assists and eight rebounds.

The Celtics, with their army of wing defenders, are still Herro’s biggest challenge. I’ve seen them try to take him out by putting Smart on him.

8. Can Boston defend without cracking?

Butler made it to the line nine times per game in the regular season, and that number jumped to 10.7 in the playoffs. Dragic and Adebayo can wreak havoc in this way too, and the Heat have led the league in terms of regular season free throws (and are second in the playoffs). This is something to watch out for, especially as the Celtics were 24th in terms of free throw in defense and are physical in both perimeter and color.

When Boston is prone to fouling, the culprit is often Theis. Grant Williams, who finished out game 7 against Toronto in the center, also tends to collect fouls on the inside. Which brings us to …

9. What is the rotation of the Celtics frontcourt?

When Adebayo walked off the pitch, Miami either had Kelly Olynyk in her place or she left without a big man. From this point of view, Boston is less predictable: if Stevens wants vertical spacing and parries, he can call Robert Williams; if he wants to switch and rotate the sound, he can go with Grant Williams; if he wants offensive rebounds and post-up scoring, he can try Enes Kanter. I wouldn’t even be shocked to see Semi Ojeleye get a few minutes at 5 against Adebayo.

Theis typically plays 25-30 minutes per game, but scored 47 in double overtime in Game 6. If Stevens is looking for an offensive punch, he could go with Robert Williams or Kanter when Theis goes on the bench. Both leave Boston vulnerable against Miami pick-and-roll, so I suspect there will be an opportunity here for Grant Williams or Ojeleye, both officially listed at 6-foot-6, to play “center.”

10. How will Miami fight on the defensive?

If the Heat decides not to use a ton of zones, there are several smaller questions here:

  • If Hayward is starting, where are Dragic and Robinson hiding?
  • How will they use Adebayo?
  • How much will they change?
  • Who supervises Tatum?

Boston could take Hayward off the bench, at least in the beginning, but if he starts (and is effective) then Miami may have to consider eliminating Robinson or Dragic from the starting lineup for Iguodala. It makes sense to put Adebayo on Theis because he can change Walker’s ball screens and otherwise wander as an assistant defender, but if Tatum goes ahead, Spoelstra could throw Adebayo at him.

After overseeing Giannis Antetokounmpo, Crowder could design the Tatum assignment. Butler, however, may be better suited for this. These matchups might not really matter, though, if Spoelstra decides to change everything.

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