We thought the Celtics were going to suffer the same punishment as in Game 1. After five minutes, the Heat had already taken a 10-point lead (18-8) and Max Strus seemed set to do some serious damage. Boston’s defense is late, almost passive, and Ime Udoka decides to change strategy. Exit Robert Williams III, and make way for Grant Williams. A change of “size” which will immediately bear fruit. More mobile, the Boston defense suffocates the Heat, and Grant Williams will not leave the field until halftime! At the break, Boston took off: 70-45!
“Just to wake up” responds Ime Udoka when a reporter asks him what he said to his players during the first time-out. “We were slow to react on the first shots, changing too slowly on their shooters, and that’s something we didn’t do very well in the first game. We are aware of what they have, who are their scorers and who are their shooters, and how we have to change accordingly and according to their squad. It was just a simple message to say that we had to wake up and react a little faster. Al (Horford) also conceded one, and Jaylen was too low on another, but he quickly corrected the shot and finished the quarter well. »
The Heat trapped on their pick-and-roll
The key, for Ime Udoka, was to be able to switch on all players. A permanent “switch” for which a journalist provided the figures: the Celtics “switched” 33 times on pick-and-rolls. A paying strategy since Miami only scored 15 points on its possessions and lost two balls.
We also saw very high two-man strikes when a Heat player stopped his dribble. We think of Tyler Herro, unable to make a pass on an action, and sanctioned by the referees with a walk.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year up to a point… We’re one of the best teams to switch, and we’ve done that a lot. The return of some defenders (Horford and Smart) certainly helped tonight” he acknowledges. “We saw Herro penetrate a little too much, Butler also in the last game and we wanted to show ourselves in front of them. That’s what we did tonight: a good physical challenge; good attention to detail on certain players; aggressive play reads, aggressive switches… Every time they tried to break in, they saw someone in front of them, and didn’t get many clean shots. »
Marcus Smart and Al Horford change everything
Ime Udoka mentions it in his answer, the returns of Marcus Smart and Al Horford obviously changed a lot of things. They are arguably the best two defenders on the team. They are intelligent and versatile, and the coach pays tribute to his leader.
“As always, he set the tone for the game… It’s no coincidence that he’s the best defenseman in the NBA. He has this ability to change on bigger players, and he’s someone you can send to Butler, Adebayo and others without worrying about what they’re going to try to do. He brings physical intensity every night, and makes sure everyone is on the right track. And then there’s the return of Al, one more versatile defender. It’s not surprising that we defend so well with them back. »
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