Playoff Breakdown: An Unfortunate Ending to a Tough Series

Commentary2 months ago5 min readJohn Jablonka

Well, the Miami Heat aren’t going to the finals for the second time in three years. After a long, rather strange seven-game series, the Boston Celtics have managed to advance to the finals.

Seeing as this was the last game of the season, I’ve decided to change up the idea for this piece. Rather than go through the Game 7 breakdown, as usual, I’ve thought of having a short discussion about this game and the series in general.

This game was a pretty good representation of why this even went to Game 7. It was all because Jimmy Butler has shown that he is one of the elite players in the league and has earned himself the right to be in that same conversation amongst other superstars.

This game was all Celtics. For the first 46-ish minutes, the Celtics were in full control of the game and it didn’t even seem that the Heat would have a chance to win the game in the fourth. There was just not enough firepower from the Heat.

They were gassed. Butler tried to will them into another win with 35 points on 13-for-24 shooting (18 points in the second quarter), but that wasn’t enough. The shooting wasn’t there again, as it hasn’t been all playoff long.

But then, with around two minutes left, there was a glimpse that they could do this. I’ll tell you when that lead was getting smaller and smaller, my heart rate went through the roof at 3 am. They managed to go on a run, get crucial stops, and score some easy points in semi-transition.

Finally, we get to the last stop, Butler gets the rebound, sees Al Horford backpedaling, and with zero hesitation pulls it from deep to take the lead. It’s one of those moments that if it goes in, you’ll remember for years to come. Everyone remembers the clutch shots even ones that happen in the earlier rounds or even the regular season. Everyone remembers “they do have a timeout, decide not to use it, Curry way downtown. Bang!” and this was a meaningless regular-season game.

I can only imagine if Butler makes this and wins the game. Sadly, that was too good to be true.

But then the conversation ended up being should Butler have taken that shot? Before answering, this wouldn’t be a topic at all had he made it. Only the results matter apparently, but sometimes, it’s as simple as missing a good look.

People will have a problem with this shot because he had Horford backpedaling, which he could have potentially beat and finished at the rim or drawn a foul. As much as a great finisher that he is, there is a chance he still could have missed — would it have been a higher percentage shot for Butler? 100 percent yes. I do agree that he was more likely to make the driving attempt or get fouled than make a pull-up 3.

But the goal wasn’t to make that shot. It was to win the game and taking that transition pull-up 3 gave the Heat a better chance to win the game.

Even if he has a higher chance to make the layup, it’s still just a tied game. I feel confident that they would have got the stop, but that just means overtime. And honestly, I don’t think this team had it in them to go another five minutes. Was Butler about to play 53 minutes?

However, had he made the 3, now they have the lead and that changes everything for the Celtics. They wouldn’t hold the ball for the last shot. They would probably go score as fast as they could, so even if they missed they can still play the foul game.

Without going into the whole percentages, more likely or whatnot, Butler has earned himself that right to do what he thinks gives the team the best chance to win the game. There was no hesitation, it’s clear he knew he was going to take that shot.

This bad shot from Butler made me go back and see Dwyane Wade’s clutch moments. Do you know how many shots he took that were objectively bad? Some of the shots he took were significantly worse than an open transition 3. But no one bats an eye because sometimes you get lucky and make a tough shot.

Now, it’s unfortunate that this is the way they ended their season. It was a successful one — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially with these circumstances. Injuries are part of the game, which is why it’s no knock on the Celtics — if they win, no one is going to care about whatever injuries their opponent had.

However, from the Heat perspective, it annoys you more. Because it came down to Game 7 and to the last shot without one of your best scorers on the team, a not-so-healthy Kyle Lowry, and a banged-up Butler. And then you add the to the fact they were also the worst 3-point shooting team after being the best in the regular season.

It just sucks.

But it’s the off-season now. Yay.

Time to fire up the trade machines, ignore cap rules, other teams’ interests, and send everyone out of here. With the Heat being that close from another finals appearance, I’m curious to see what Pat Riley will cook up to get this team over the hump.