1. The Celtics started the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 96-90 lead. For those three minutes, Boston picked up their ball pressure to create problems for Miami. The energy and effort levels were the best they had been for the entirety of Game 6.
Erik Spoelstra took a timeout to settle his group, and it worked. The Heat pretty quickly tied it. Boston took the lead back at 100-98 with 6:30 to play, but it would be their final lead of the season.
The Heat outscored the Celtics 27-13 over the final 6:30 to win the series. And it was worse than it maybe reads here in print. Miami got layups, open jumpers and to the free throw line at will. Over the final six minutes or so, the Heat looked confident and full of energy. The Celtics looked like an cookie that had been dunked in the milk too long: conceivably still good, but a crumbling, falling apart mess.
2. With Gordon Hayward back in the fold, Brad Stevens turned to the Best Five lineup of Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker regularly in Games 3-6. In Game 3, this grouping was why Boston won. They were fantastic, as they were +13 in six minutes.
For the rest of the series, the Best Five were -10 over 12 minutes. Once Miami realized just how small that group is, they made an effort to involve Bam Adebayo. And it worked to run Boston off the floor.
3. Struggling with Bam Adebayo wasn’t just a Best Five issue. It was a series-long challenge for everyone. Adebayo finished Game 6 with 32 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. He was the most dominant player in the game on both ends of the floor.
In Game 5, the combination of Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter did well to attack Adebayo on offense and to limit his contributions on the other end. Adebayo took the loss hard and said that it was all on him. He also promised he would be better. In 39 minutes in Game 6, he dominated Theis and Kanter. Grant Williams did better, but when he came back in after Theis fouled out, Adebayo was already too far out of the box.
Having enough quality bigs was a worry for Boston all year long. That worry manifested itself in the scariest possible way as the season slipped away.
4. For all of the problems the Heat’s zone defense caused the Celtics in the first couple of games of the series, it wasn’t an issue after that. Boston figured out how to attack it and regularly got good shots in Games 3-6. In Game 6 especially, the zone caused the Celtics little to no issues. Jayson Tatum was great about getting into the gaps to find shots or passes. Jaylen Brown also drove the zone for baskets as well. At various points in the game, Miami was only able to run the zone for a few possessions before Boston would chase them out of it.
5. The Celtics biggest issue in Game 6 was their defense. To put it simply, it was awful. Other than a stretch over the end of the third quarter to the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, Boston’s effort on defense was completely missing. Miami got whatever they wanted. Layups, open threes, switches into good matchups, they were all there for the Heat. Miami shot 56.3%, which is absurd in an elimination game.
Plays like this were emblematic of the lack of execution for the Celtics. Enes Kanter doesn’t pressure Andre Iguodala as a passer. Jimmy Butler makes a simple cut against Kemba Walker for the layup:
Not sure if Walker thought Marcus Smart would pick up Butler, or if Smart thought Walker had it, but the result is bad. This kind of play showed up throughout the game and it’s not good enough when the season is on the line.
6. We’re not going to kill Gordon Hayward here. It looked like his sprained ankle was still an issue. He also missed the birth of his son to try and help the Celtics. Both of those are sacrifices that should be appreciated.
That said, it was a rough game for Hayward. If you take out a couple of late layups, when Miami was playing it out, Hayward was 3-of-10 from the floor. He also had a couple of key turnovers. Overall, Hayward looked out of sync and not healthy. It was yet another disappointing stretch during his all-too-often disappointing tenure as a Celtic.
7. With Hayward coming off the bench, it was hoped he might help one of Boston’s most glaring season-long problems: bench scoring. When the team was fully healthy, the best they could hope for with reserve scoring was the occasional Marcus Smart explosion or the rare Enes Kanter big game. Because Smart started as much as he came off the bench, the Celtics never really had anyone they could count on off the pine to deliver points.
Some of that is because most of the bench contributors were in their first few years in the NBA. The ones with the most potential as scorers were either hurt (Romeo Langford) or bad (Carsen Edwards). Everyone else isn’t really a scoring threat. That’s a spot Danny Ainge has to address in the offseason.
8. Despite the disappointment of the season being over, we want to close the Takeaways on a high note. There are no higher of notes than the play of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Those two are the future and present of the Celtics, which is a great place to be in at their ages.
Tatum leveled up as a passer this season and it was on display in Game 6. This play shows how Tatum learned to deal with the blitzes he saw as the season went along. Goran Dragic comes up to attempt the trap. Tatum catches his him no-man’s land and finds Gordon Hayward for the open corner three:
Here, Tatum drives, draws the defense and dishes to Daniel Theis for an easy dunk. This is a perfect example of his quick decision-making off the bounce:
9. Jaylen Brown had his moments as Boston’s most consistent scorer throughout the series. He was great about staying on the attack, but doing so by being patiently aggressive. Brown rarely forced things. This play is a good example of Brown keeping his head up and attacking immediately off the catch. The result is an and-1 layup in transition:
In the fourth quarter, Brown used his defense to create offense. He blew up a DHO for a breakaway layup early in the quarter, then he picked Tyler Herro’s pocket for a layup here:
Brown becoming a consistent 20 points per game scorer, with good efficiency, alongside Tatum’s all-around improvement are the best reasons this loss shouldn’t sting quite so much.
10. We’ll have lots more coverage for you here at CelticsBlog. It’s going to be a weird offseason, but with three draft picks and a roster crunch, Boston has lots of interesting decisions ahead. The 2019-20 season is over, but the 2020-21 season isn’t far away.
Mostly, this space is an opportunity to thank you for reading the Takeaways all season long. This was the 93rd version of the Takeaways for this season (four preseason games, 72 regular season games and 17 playoff games). The hope was for there to be several more to write, but alas, the best laid plans of mice and men.
93 times I wrote about the previous night’s game, often with video clips interspersed among thoughts. Sometimes we went bigger picture. Sometimes it was nitty-gritty. Heck, we even did a few versions during the hiatus, that we aren’t counting as part of the 93. No matter what, 93 times you read and engaged. As your several-times-a-week author, I can ask for nothing else.
Keep your eyes tuned to this space, as we’ll have more Takeaways and more coverage to come here at CelticsBlog.