You knew it was going to happen. Miami looked otherworldly against the Celtics and now they don't look all that competitive against Denver. It isn't the first time something like this has happened. There is precedent for this from the bubble.
In 2020, the Miami Heat upset the Celtics in the EFC to go to the Finals where they got fairly easily handled by the Lakers. That was one of the most devastating defeats for me as a Celtics fan, not because we lost, but because the Lakers won a relatively easy Finals after the Anthony Davis tampering saga. Our mistakes contributed to that and I'm still bitter about it to this day.
Last year, we were a Jimmy Butler shot away from possibly losing game 7. We did make the Final and we didn't go down 0-3 like this year. It's still easy to forget how close that series was. It's not like I can complain how Miami can't win a Finals series after beating us when the Celtics didn't win the Finals, either. However, I can assert that the Celtics were more competitive in the Finals against the Warriors than the Heat typically are after "upsetting us" in the EFC. The Celtics went up 2-1 on the Warriors through 3 games. The Heat never had a series lead or even a series tie against the Lakers. And now Miami is down 0-1 to the Nuggets, likely to soon be 0-2, and Miami probably won't be able to come back against a much more talented Nuggets team.
After 3 years of tough, hard fought series against the Heat, don't we need to call this a pattern? And don't we need to acknowledge that there is some serious underachieving or matchup issues going on here?
Well, it's not a matchup issue for us. Or at least it shouldn't be. This is where the article comes in...
"According to Johnson, the Nuggets' length played a big role in the win as well, and it could be a major hindrance for the Heat in their bid to take down the Western Conference champions.
"Denver’s length is going to be a major problem for the Miami Heat!" Johnson wrote on Twitter.
While Magic Johnson didn't elaborate on his take, those who watched Game 1 of the Nuggets-Heat series can understand where he's coming from. Denver basically exploited mismatches all night long, which was pretty evident in the performances of Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr."
Denver's length is a problem? Wasn't that the Celtics last season? Weren't we the team that bothered other teams with length? And with that same length advantage, did we not just barely squeak out a 7 game victory?
This is why I got triggered. The Celtics should have better defenders overall than Denver does. Caleb Martin looks like Reggie Miller against us and then completely ordinary against the Nuggets. It gets worse.
The Heat had 3 guys available this year that should be able to individually defend us in match ups. That's Butler, Adebayo, and Martin. We should have the matchup advantage against 2 or more Heat players on the court every time down the floor. So it shouldn't be a matchup problem for us against Miami. It just shouldn't.
I understand the Heat went small to exploit our double big lineup. But they can't seem to do that to nearly the same degree against Denver. I know that the Heat play great team defense to mask some of the individual defensive deficiencies. The Nuggets can still slice that up no problem. I get that Gabe Vincent played surprisingly good defense. Tatum, he's 6'3 and you're 6'8. Shoot over the guy or bully him to the rim!
You might try to say that the Nuggets are just a different level of team. Their playoff road consists of two 8th seeds, a 7th seed, and a fraudulent 4th seed Suns with no depth. Yes, the Lakers and Heat aren't the typical 7th and 8th seeds. Denver still has a large advantage there that they ironically might not have had against the Celtics, who own a really good head to head record against the Nuggets. Not that we necesarrily wouldn't find a way to lose that series anyway. Just that there isn't the same level of talent gap between our teams.
I'm rambling too much. The point is matchups. The playoffs are about matchups. The Celtics seemed to forget how to play to matchups and this may have been the most frustrating thing about this year. Denver does this and it makes it much more apparent how we were lacking.