Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla is a man of couple of words. Throughout his interview with Allie LaForce of TNT in among the third and fourth quarters of Game five of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday evening, he uttered just ten of them. The initially seven stood out.

“It just begins with our defensive identity,” Mazzulla stated, when asked why the Celtics have been the finest version of themselves in a wire-to-wire, 110-97 victory more than the Miami Heat, which kept their season alive and forced a Game six back in Miami on Saturday. 

If you just scanned the box score, it may perhaps not appear like this was a defensive masterpiece by the Celtics, but the Heat’s 51.three% shooting from the field and 39.1% mark from three-point land never inform the complete story. Yes, they may perhaps have hit shots, but they in no way got into a comfy rhythm since of the Celtics’ stress ideal from the opening tip.

The Heat won that jump ball and attempted to set up Bam Adebayo with a post iso on the ideal side of the floor. Only, Al Horford forced Adebayo to catch the ball all the way at the three-point line, which meant the Heat significant man had to place the ball on the deck in the middle of the floor to get to the basket. That was a terrible concept with Marcus Clever lurking the Celtics guard reached in for a steal, dove to safe the loose ball and located Jayson Tatum for a fastbreak layup. 

“Physicality on the defensive finish from the get started,” Grant Williams stated. “Clever set the tone the initially play of the game, which set our defense up for the rest of the game and we gotta just continue that stress.”

The Celtics have been completely locked in. 

Their choose-up points have been in the backcourt or ideal at halfcourt. They have been creating the Heat operate just to get into their sets, which they then had to get started additional away from the basket. Here’s a sample of 4 possessions from the initially quarter. 

The Celtics have been selecting up the Heat early and creating them work 

They constructed on their initial stress by flying about off the ball and getting sensible with when and exactly where they helped. Here’s a play late in the initially half exactly where Jaylen Brown jumps the passing lane for a steal and gets an quick fastbreak layup. That all occurs since Clever is up on Caleb Martin early, which tends to make the initial pass out to the wing longer and a lot more predictable, providing Brown the capacity to time the steal. 

In the third quarter, the Heat attempted to post up Adebayo with Clever guarding him, so Horford shades down toward the paint and tends to make a tough double group. As Adebayo kicks out to Jimmy Butler, Derrick White has currently slid more than to the elbow to congest the lane Butler desires to drive into and gets the steal. 

On the occasions when the Heat have been capable to get into the lane, the Celtics’ discipline and rim protection created issues complicated. Though the Heat did shoot the ball nicely general, that was mainly on difficult jumpers at the rim they have been just 17 of 26, a 65.four% mark that was under league typical, and in the paint general they have been 26 of 47. 

Just a couple of possessions in, White plays tremendous defense and goes vertical to force a Butler miss.

A couple of minutes later, Tatum does the similar.

In the second half, White refused to bite on a Butler pump fake, then Tatum stands tall to contest a wild operating layup from Max Strus.

“Yeah, D-White, second group all-defense this year for a cause,” Tatum stated. “He’s a significant component of our group, our identity, issues we attempt and do on the defensive finish. He’s a pretty sensible basketball player on each ends, and his awareness, his instincts, they showed tonight.”

The Celtics do not have the similar level of defense as they did final season, but they nevertheless completed second in the league in defensive rating and can dial it up when important. That is just what they did in Game five with a brilliant show that completely blended power and organization. The outcome was 27 points off of 16 turnovers, which integrated 13 steals. 

And it is that form of intensity that they will need to have a lot more of in Game six if they want to come to be just the fourth group in NBA history to force a Game 7 immediately after going down three-. 

“We played with good intensity on defense, and I feel we just set the tone from the jump,” Brown stated. “We’ve got to be capable to do that and carry that more than into the subsequent game. We have got to anticipate their finest punch subsequent game.”

By Editor

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