Bam Adebayo gives in under pressure from the Celtics. Heat need to fix this, and other issues, by Game 6

BOSTON — The Miami Heat find themselves in the awkward position of having to make some serious adjustments to avoid absolute disaster in the Eastern Conference Finals.

That’s usually the case for both teams in a competitive series, but for the first three games, the Boston Celtics weren’t that competitive. They are now, after beating Miami 110-97 in Game 5, fully committed to Derrick White and a smaller roster that has made the Celtics much quicker with better spacing on offense and a much more disruptive defense.

It’s the Heat’s turn to make changes, probably to the roster and certainly to the way they play on offense. Thirty-two turnovers in the last two games won’t be enough.

“They cornered us in the paint a lot of times with quick hands, stripping, things of that nature,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We need to consolidate that. That’s two games in a row. »

Ten of those turnovers came from center Bam Adebayo, who the Celtics vowed to upset by collapsing on him in the lane. They use Marcus Smart or White to come down from the perimeter and apply the extra pressure, and the Heat was too slow to counter.

The box score indicates that Adebayo was Miami’s leading scorer among starters (this is important because in a blowout, neither Adebayo nor Jimmy Butler played the fourth quarter). He scored 16 points on 8 of 15 shooting, with eight boards and three assists. Not bad. But at halftime, Adebayo was just 3 of 9 shots with five turnovers. He took just seven shots and spat it four times in an equally frustrating Game 4 loss.

Adebayo was dominant earlier in this series. In Games 1 and 2, he averaged 21 points on 53% shooting, with just two turnovers per game.

“It’s out of respect – he was aggressive and able to reach the rim and able to hit his spots, so they’ve now had him operated in a crowd,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a good thing. That’s what big players usually command, it’s a second defender. I thought his decision on a few plays in the second half was key.”

The Celtics defense block can be any number of tactics, and probably more than one. Adebayo could enter his room more quickly after catching the ball, before a second defender could reach him. He can catch the ball from different places on the pitch, or even bring it in as a starter – something he has done from time to time throughout his career. Or he can also pass it to the perimeter, but that would partly depend on the movement of his teammates. If they stagnate and watch Adebayo struggle, he may not see them in time.

“It’s up to us to put him in better positions to score the ball, get it to him in transition and stuff like that,” said Butler, who scored 14 points and took just 10 shots. “When you watch the movie and watch how we can be better and put it in its place with the ball, with the position and with the time on the clock to score, we will be better at that.”

The Heat have been outscored by 44 points in their last two games with Butler on the court. After a stellar start to this series for Butler, he also saw more double teams and wasn’t able to get to his places on offense with the same command we’re used to seeing from him in playoffs.

Butler shot 12 of 25 in each of the first two games, and Miami didn’t need much of him in a blowout victory in Game 3. But in that game, that’s where the Celtics finally managed to defend Butler with more help. , and he did not recover. He took 21 shots in Game 4 and only made nine, and 10 shots in Game 5 just isn’t enough.

“Our attack was a bit disjointed,” Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to initiate our attack, get the ball where we needed it to go to places where you could operate. If we can get Jimmy into his comfort zones and strength zones more consistently, he’ll be fine.

“We’ll work on that in the next 48 hours, but collectively we need to play with more intention, strength and balance offensively, which we are fully capable of doing.”

The Heat were without starting point guard Gabe Vincent, which caused a host of problems. Vincent is a solid defender and 3-point shooter. At this point in his storied career, Kyle Lowry isn’t those things, at least not consistently, and he’s only had five points and one assist against four turnovers in Game 5.

Playing Lowry and Kevin Love together as starters proved problematic on defense – the Celtics sprinted out of the gate in the first quarter – and Spoelstra turned to underused Haywood Highsmith instead of Love to start the second half. -time. Highsmith was efficient with 15 points and Caleb Martin had another decent game with 14 points from the bench.

With the Celtics committed to playing White with the starters and cutting minutes from Robert Williams III, it may be time for Spoelstra to walk away from Love all together and start Martin – perhaps with more minutes. for Haywood if this became a series for faster wings. . Love didn’t completely drop out of the rotation in the second half of Game 5, as he played the minutes usually reserved for reserve center Cody Zeller.

But if Vincent (sprained left ankle) can play in Game 6, it would at least theoretically restore order to the method the Heat operated in when things were easier.

“We will see, we will see who is available, see if Gabe is available. I can’t answer that question right now,” Spoelstra said, when asked if he needed to make a permanent roster change. “But it’s always good when a guy (Haywood) comes in and plays a few productive minutes and sees good things happen. But we will see.

The Celtics’ offense is flying high and bombing 3 at a pace much closer to the regular season when they were the league’s second most prolific team from deep. Jayson Tatum was one of four players with at least 20 points for Boston in Game 5, so the Heat didn’t really make it difficult for one of the Celtics’ best offensive players after enjoying great success there. down for three games. Miami always uses a zone to try to slow down the game and pick up Boston’s pace. The Celtics have obviously found ways around this in the last two games, but the Heat use an occasional zone because they don’t think they can win playing for 48 minutes.

“We stopped playing defensively halfway through because we didn’t make the shots we wanted to make,” Butler said. “But it’s easily correctable.”

With the series at 3-2 and Game 6 to play in Miami, now is the time for the Heat to make those corrections.

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(Photo by Bam Adebayo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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