1. The Celtics are starting to pile up a handful of candidates for “win of the year” to this point in the season. The comeback against the Bucks and blowout over the Lakers were leading candidates, but this game should be way up there. Miami was 21-2 at home prior to this game. Boston was without key rotation contributors Jayson Tatum and Enes Kanter, and had the depth further sapped with Javonte Green out. It got a little bumpy when Miami broke out the zone defense in the second quarter, but by the break, and throughout the second half, Boston was in control. Several stars stepped up and were supported by good minutes by the deeper bench players. Considering the potential impact to playoff seeding, the Celtics having a 2-0 lead against the Heat (with two to play) is huge.
2. Without Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown both have to be big parts of the offense as scorers. Both were up to the task in Miami. They combined to shoot 20-of-30 from the floor for 54 points. Let’s start with Hayward.
It’s a broken record, but aggressive Hayward equals good Hayward. Against the Heat, Hayward was looking to make plays early and often. At multiple points in the game, Hayward had only Duncan Robinson between him and the basket and he regularly attacked like this:
And like this:
Once the confidence is flowing, Hayward gets a little extra spring in his step to make plays like finishing this alley-oop in transition from Marcus Smart:
And, lastly, Hayward’s patience and personal pace is good, especially on late-game plays like this one:
3. Jaylen Brown was no slouch himself, as he hit three three-pointers to open the game and was off and running from there. The first really standout play he made though was this nifty pass off the dribble to Grant Williams for a layup:
Late in the first half, he showed how Boston started to beat the Miami zone by ducking in the paint for this little jumper:
Goran Dragic always kills the Celtics with his crafty offensive game, but when it’s only him between Brown and bucket, that’s advantage Brown:
4. So…about that zone defense from the Heat. The Celtics really struggled with it initially in the second quarter. Boston was 2-of-14 shooting with three turnovers over the first 7:11 of the second period. The issue wasn’t getting open shots, as Boston was getting open looks. The problem was that those looks weren’t coming from spots where the Celtics generally shoot it. Late in the half, the ball started moving a little more and shot quality improved.
In the second half, Boston started actively driving the gaps in the zone and the ball was really popping. That helped the Celtics build a double-digit lead and it chased Miami out of the zone for the rest of the night.
5. Daniel Theis has quietly been stringing together a bunch of good games, especially with Enes Kanter out. That puts some pressure on Theis to play closer to 30 minutes a game, as opposed to the 20 or so he usually gets, but he’s delivering in a big way. The pull-up jumper off the dribble? That one needs a little more work. But the follow-dunk was nice:
Then he played some great defense, first on the switch against Jimmy Butler and then the recovery to swat away Bam Adebayo’s jump-hook:
Later in the game, Theis made two plays that won’t show up in the box score. First, he executes one of his “Theis seals” to help Kemba Walker get a layup and the foul:
And then Theis executes the patented “Celtics closeout” on a three-point shooter:
He jumps out at Meyers Leonard with his hands high and Leonard misses by a mile.
6. With Jayson Tatum and Javonte Green out, Semi Ojeleye continued a string of games with quality minutes. With teams respecting him more as a shooter (Ojeleye is at 36.4% for the year from behind the arc), he’s had chances to attack off the dribble. Here he adds to Duncan Robinson’s tough night:
In the second half, as Boston was busting Miami’s zone, Ojeleye made the best pass of his career. He catches and immediately drops it to Theis for the easy dunk:
7. The Celtics defense was really good most of the night. They held the Heat to just 9-of-37 from deep. The one time they blew it was on this play. And the broadcast clearly picked up Brad Stevens yelling “No! No JB! No!” at Jaylen Brown. You can hear it in the clip below:
Brown never should have left Robinson (Miami’s best shooter) to rotate to James Johnson in the corner. Ojeleye has Johnson. Even if he doesn’t, you’ll live with that shot. Robinson this wide-open is almost always a basket. Fortunately, that was one of the only bad rotations of the night for Boston.
8. Speaking of Brad Stevens…Who was this guy on the sidelines using timeouts to quell the opponent runs? At three different points in this game, Stevens called a timeout when Miami made a run to close in on Boston. Stevens usually prefers to let his guys play through it, which regularly drives fans and observers of the Celtics crazy. He’s been a bit more liberal with his usage of timeouts to stop runs this year, especially over the last month or so. Everyone adapts and adjusts. It appears this is a personal adjustment for Stevens.
9. Let’s close with the bluest of blue collar workers for the Celtics. Grant Williams was a beast. His combination of defense, hustle and work on the boards helped Boston get this win. With the Celtics up at the end of the third, Williams gets the extra possession and finds Brad Wanamaker for the triple and a little cushion to start the fourth:
In the fourth, someone has been watching Enes Kanter and his ability to move guys off the spot to get offensive boards:
Williams’ impact was all over this game in both box score stats and non-stats.
10. The ability to impact the game without stats is a Marcus Smart specialty, but he made plays with stats attached to close this one out. Smart was 1-of-10 from the floor to start the game. So, of course, he buried one of those “No! No! No! YES!” specials of his:
Against the much-bigger Adebayo right at the rim? Advantage Smart:
If the ball is in the air or on the floor and you need someone to make sure your team comes up with it, Smart is your guy:
Look where he starts that play. He’s deep in the opposite corner. Doesn’t matter. Marcus Smart makes Marcus Smart plays.