Blogging with the enemy: Previewing the Eastern Conference Finals with Hot Hot Hoops

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The Celtics are preparing to face the Miami Heat in the playoffs again, but this time there’s no LeBron James or Rajon Rondo (they’re both out West playing for some other team). To get us more familiar with this year’s version of the Miami Heat, I exchanged questions and answers with Diego Quezada of Hot Hot Hoops, SBNation’s Heat blog. Enjoy!

1. I think we know what to expect from Jimmy Butler by now, but the guy that really scares me is Bam Adebayo. He’s a matchup nightmare for any team, in particular one that doesn’t have a ton of big man depth. How has he performed in the playoffs and what do you expect from him in this series?

Diego: Bam Adebayo has had a breakout season this year — a first-time All-Star, first-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection and runner-up in Most Improved Player voting. In the playoffs, he’s added to the breakout year.

Defensively, we know he’s the rare player who can truly defend 1-through-5 and blows up pick-and-roll actions from other teams. But his midrange shooting in the playoffs has impressed me. During the regular season, Adebayo shot 40 percent on shots from 10-16 feet away from the basket and 23 percent on shots from 16 feet away to the 3-point line. In the playoffs, he’s shot 47 percent and 50 percent from those areas, respectively.

In this series, I expect him to be a help defender roving around the court. He’ll continue to be the hub of offense at the elbow to find players like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro off dribble hand-offs. In these two teams’ matchup in the bubble, Adebayo went to the foul line 18 times. He can both find other players and initiate offense for himself.

2. We just finished a long, grind-it-out, defensive series with the defending champs. Seems like you guys have another gritty, defensive minded team that will not quit. What is Coach Spo’s defensive gameplan with this group (I know the run a lot of zone) and how do you see them defending the Celtics key players?

Diego: Erik Spoelstra ran more zone than any other team during the regular season, and yet he hasn’t used it at all through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Now, I would expect the Heat to play some zone against the Celtics.

When the Heat aren’t in zone, we could see Spoelstra put Jimmy Butler on Kemba Walker. Derrick Jones Jr., who was a borderline rotation player in the last series, also could play some minutes to check Walker. I would expect to see Jae Crowder get the assignment on Jayson Tatum, especially if Butler is on Walker.

3. This series includes a few familiar faces for us. Jae Crowder seems to be back to his high level 3-n-D ways. What have you seen from him (good or bad)? Does Kelly Olynyk still pump fake on wide open three point looks (always drove me batty)? What do you like and not like about those two?

Diego: Back at the trade deadline, Pat Riley tried to get Danilo Gallinari. Crowder was the consolation prize; he shot 29 percent from 3-point range with Memphis this season. But with a Miami Heat uniform on, he’s turned into Jae Allen. He shot 44.5 percent from 3 on 6.4 attempts with Miami during the regular season. In the second round, he shot 43.1 percent from deep on 10.2 attempts per game. And he’s combined it with All-Defensive Team-level play on the other end of the floor.

Although Olynyk has played limited minutes — he’s now become a backup to Adebayo — I’ve liked what Kelly Olynyk has given Miami offensively. He’s a knock-down 3-point shooter and adds some variety — posting up a smaller player for an easy layup, the “Kelly Keeper” in which he’ll fake a hand-off and drive to the rim. In Miami’s Game 5 clincher over the Bucks, Olynyk was 4-of-7 from the field and a +22 in his 17 minutes.

4. I get the feeling we’re going to get a crash course in the Tyler Herro experience. Give us a preview of what’s to come.

Diego: Tyler Herro has closed every single game with the Heat in the playoffs. A lot of his offensive skills — including his finishing around the rim and ball-handling — markedly improved since the pandemic shut down the season. He’s shown that the stage of the NBA playoffs doesn’t faze him one bit.

Butler is a max player, but he’s not going to average 30 points per game in a series. Having Herro and Goran Dragic offer dynamic scoring at all three levels — around the rim, in midrange and from beyond the arc — have been key to the Heat’s offense.

5. What’s your prediction for the series?

Diego: My pick is Heat in 6. In the previous round, I picked Bucks in 7. I’m not picking against my team again.





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