Playoff Breakdown: Bam Closing Out Another Series, Martin’s Perfect Offense, Celtics Forcing Shots

Insight6 months ago8 min readJohn Jablonka

Well, the Miami Heat won’t be on the wrong part of history. Obviously, I feel this way because they won but beating the Boston Celtics in game seven in this fashion feels much better than a sweep. To give every Celtics fan hope and make them think that they all have to do is win once more at home only to get blown out is so damn satisfying.

And honestly, this was surprising. If you were reading the timeline on Twitter before the game, a lot of tweets were saying this game will either be the Heat getting blown out or it will be a close game with Jimmy Butler taking over.

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone say that this could happen. After a poor start on offense, the Heat were quickly in control of the game. Once the Celtics gave up the lead, it was over.

The way they won this game also felt like a Heat win. They did make their 3s but this wasn’t a great offense. Per Cleaning the Glass, their offense was only 114.4. They had some key contributions from Caleb Martin, who was quite perfect on offense. Add some nine 3s from Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent, and Jimmy Butler(he made the second most 3s in the game). And that’s how they got their offense.

That was enough to win when they played great defense. They completely took away everything that the Celtics wanted. Without playing Kevin Love or Cody Zeller, and them opting in to switch everything,

The Celtics had no idea what to do against the switches and the zone defense. They couldn’t create many advantages, apart from some slips against switches. They couldn’t get their drive-and-kick actions. They couldn’t generate easy 3s. And with the Heat not turning the ball over, there wasn’t a lot that the Celtics could’ve done.

Bam Closing Out Another Series

Bam Adebayo had a poor scoring game. He only scored 12 points and took 10 shots in a must-win game. And when I woke up to watch the game live, there were a lot of takes about his game. But when I was rewatching the game in the morning, I didn’t think he had a poor game.

What he was doing on defense(it was that good) made me not even realize that he wasn’t scoring points. I honestly didn’t pay attention to the fact that he was taking shots either because what he was doing on defense was much more important, especially in this game.

But he also had a high impact on offense outside traditional scoring. It may not be flashy. It may seem boring. It may also seem not as important. Adebayo was on point everywhere else, though. His screening was a big reason why they got so many good looks. He had 10 screen assists, which netted 25 points.

This probably doesn’t get talked about when mentioning a player’s impact on offense because it’s something that you just do. It’s a big’s job to set screens, so it feels like it can easily be dismissed as something small. But having someone who’s constantly setting screens(and is effective) is so important on offense, especially on this team. Adebayo’s screen-setting is needed a lot to get open looks.

And Adebayo does all the little things well too:

Marcus Smart tried to beat Butler by going over the screen early, so Adebayo counters that by re-screening and flipping the angle. That quick adjustment creates more space for Butler to get a cleaner look.

It’s also not just on-ball screens. Something that this team misses a lot is PJ Tucker setting screens. Having players go out and set off-ball screens is also highly important for the offense. A good screen can be the difference between an open look and no look at all. There is a reason why the Heat were able to get many open looks.

He also had many great assists too:

Just finding ways to still impact the game if the shots aren’t falling or even if he’s not taking shots. He will still find cutters like this and make great reads.

Then there are plays like these:

Doesn’t score or get the assist but still creates advantages. Whether it’s in the post drawing a double or drawing the defense on the short roll, he’s able to bend the defense to find open looks. In one of the screen assists clips, he opened up a space for Vincent because the threat of his roll made Al Horford stick with him.

But it was his defense that stood out. What Adebayo brings is the reason why the Heat were able to switch everything and completely shut down the Celtics’ offense. This wasn’t shooting variance. I’ve said this in the previous breakdown. The Celtics in the last two games haven’t been able to put the Heat in rotation to get clean looks.

And a lot of that is because Adebayo is able to switch against anyone and not give up any drive. The best defense is prevention. Whenever he switches on someone, they either struggle to drive in the first place or don’t even attempt it:

This was the third series-clinching game where he dominated on defense. He did that against the Milwaukee Bucks where he shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo. And then he did a similar thing against the New York Knicks where his fourth-quarter defense against Jalen Brunson won the game.

He may not have had the best scoring game but his impact was there on offense. And even if it wasn’t, the luxury he gives the Heat on defense is game-changing. His defense alone can win you a game.

Things That Caught My Eye

The Celtics cut the lead to seven a couple of times but that didn’t matter — the Heat had the answer for that every single time.

A lot of it was Martin, but it was just tough shot-making from everyone. Butler knocked down a jumper. Butler forced the steal for transition points. And Duncan finished it with a clean 3 to increase the lead.

This was the complete opposite of what happened in game four. It felt similar in a way where the Celtics had life. They were coming close and could’ve turn it around. That’s what happened in game four where the Heat had the opportunity to close it out in the third but didn’t. They didn’t play around here. They took care of business and didn’t let go of the gas until it was done.

I kept seeing that the Celtics missed a lot of open 3s. And in a way some of these were classified as open, but not every open three is equal. Not every three is created the same way and that matters:

I wonder why the Celtics had such a poor shooting percentage when this is the type of shots they took.

And you also had possessions like these:

This is related to the switching defense. That got their offense in the mud to the point where they settled for these types of possessions. This happened in game six too! A lot of their offense was isolation and bad vibes.

But arguably the story of the game. Caleb, freaking, Martin. Probably should’ve been the MVP. He was superb in the series and even better in this game:

He was perfect on offense. Knocking down timely 3s, scoring both on the ball and off the ball, and hitting so many tough looks. This was a whole different Martin. They don’t win this game without him. It’s wild to think about that. This is the same Martin that didn’t play much in last year’s conference finals. And now he was arguably the best, most consistent player.