2024 NBA Playoffs: How the Heat could make the Celtics bleed

2024 NBA Playoffs: How the Heat could make the Celtics bleed

The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat renew their playoff rivalry when they meet yet again in the playoffs. The two teams have faced each other three times (2020, 2022, 2023) over the past four postseason actions, with Miami having the advantage overall (2-1).

This year, the Celtics come in as the no.1 overall seed in the East while the Heat match them up as the no.8 seed. However, coming into these playoffs, there will be no expectations for Miami after learning their superstar Jimmy Butler would be out for at least several weeks following his knee injury in their play-in game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

They will be up against a dominant Celtics team that finished the regular season with a 64-18 record and the third-highest net rating of all time at 11.8, just behind the legendary Chicago Bulls teams led by the one and only Michael Jordan.

The Heat have faced the Celtics multiple times over the years and they now probably know some ways to effectively stop them, having schemes to try and limit their offensive executions as well as throwing some counters on offense to have their defense off-balanced.

Without Butler, this would be an uphill climb for Miami after what has been a roller coaster season for them and now facing their rivals who have become overwhelming favorites in this series.

However, there might be some things the Heat could do to make the dominant Celtics bleed a little for them to win some games (or even eventually win the series). Here’s a look at those moves:

Duncan Robinson should play more

Along with Butler, Miami is coming into the series also without guards Terry Rozier and Josh Richardson due to their respective injuries. Without those three, the Heat’s guard rotation has taken a significant hit with Tyler Herro, Delon Wright, and even forward Caleb Martin having to take a much bigger load offensively.

Enter Duncan Robinson.

Despite his usual suspect defense that has him riding the bench in the playoffs, coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat could use his gravity as a shooter against the Celtics. Robinson has also steadily improved his playmaking this season, averaging a career-best 2.8 assists for the year. A better effort defensively has also made him a passable team defender, and he can hold his own against some players.

Gone are the days when the only option for Robinson was dribble handoffs for his threes as he has now shown the ability to attack off the catch and even developed the ability to make plays out of those dribble handoffs. Robinson is not the same player that he was before, expanding his game from being just more than a shooter to now being a secondary or third playmaker.

To further hide his defensive deficiencies and lessen the possible mishaps when he’s on the floor, Robinson can be set up to match some of the Celtics’ easiest covers like Sam Hauser for both of their minutes. Robinson could come in at the same time as Hauser to match him up shot for shot, match his production from the three-point line, and try to see it from there.

The Heat should matchup-hunt and punish the Celtics’ average at-best defenders 

Another thing that the Heat could do to tarnish the Celtics’ seemingly impenetrable team is to target their average-at-best defenders Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet. The Heat should hunt for Pritchard and Hauser on switches when they’re on the floor and make them near to unplayable. They should also ask for switches on the high pick and roll with Kornet to leave him on an island at the top of the key. If they do this, the Heat could create two on-the-ball advantages that would be very useful in getting other guys open.

Miami has lineups that can exploit these players. Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., a prolific post-up player, could hunt Pritchard for post-ups, and then the Heat could surround him with shooters and short-roll decision-makers. If Boston sends two to the ball to help, it is an easy kick out to the open man and now the Heat have a chance to hit their wide-open looks.

If these players do end up getting played off the floor, the Celtics’ rotation will shrink and their top six guys will have to work as much as they can, exerting more effort than they should and usually do, and then maybe they’ll tire out – which could be largely beneficial for the Heat in the long run. This is when the Heat’s depth could come in handy – when Boston would need to rely only on their top six guys to win games.

Jaime Jaquez would need to be big

Despite being a rookie, Jaquez is about to shoulder a bigger load than he should be, and even with the daunting expectations, he should – or at least he needs to – match them. 

Will he be able to exceed expectations and perform what’s expected of him? That remains to be seen. But if there’s any indication from this season with the way he played and carried himself throughout the year, this rookie would step up to the plate. 

In the final play in vs Chicago, Jaquez had 21 points on 6 rebounds and 6 assists, leading the Heat to the 8th seed. He scored in a variety of ways, including threes, hard drives to the rim, post-ups, and fadeaway jumpers – reminiscent of Butler’s game.

However, without Butler, Jaquez would have to carry a much bigger load as he will be asked to be one of the main threats. Last year Butler’s masterclass saved them vs the much-favored Bucks and Celtics, but now that they don’t have him, the Heat would need production from everyone in this series with little to no room for errors or any mental mistakes. 

It might be too much to ask for a rookie to handle these kinds of situations, but Jaquez should be equipped and ready for the challenge as Miami enters this series vs Boston.

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