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26 May 2022Basketball Blogs
26 May 2022Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
The Celtics have a chance to pull within one game of the NBA Finals with a win tonight in Miami.
Good news: Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III will both suit up tonight for the Boston Celtics as they take on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals series that’s tied 2-2. Smart has been dealing with ankle soreness and swelling but evidently is feeling much better after going through warmups. Robert Williams will be day-to-day with knee soreness for the rest of the playoffs, but thankfully, he’s good to go today after having a huge impact in Game 4.
On the Miami side, Tyler Herro has been ruled out for the second straight game with a groin injury. Jimmy Butler’s been dealing with knee soreness that kept him out of the second half of Game 3, but he’s warming up with the intent to play. The rest of the Heat questionables (who have been questionable pretty much all series and all postseason) all appear poised to play as well.
The absence of Tyler Herro will likely continue to have a big impact because that’s one less ball handler for a Heat team that can go through slumps of offensive challenges at times. Victor Oladipo stepped up in a major way off the bench in Game 4, but the rest of the team was unable to match his energy as the Celtics got off to a huge lead and didn’t look back as they ballooned the advantage to 29 at one point.
For Boston, Derrick White was ultra aggressive out of the gate, replacing Marcus Smart in the starting lineup. If he maintains that aggression even off the bench, the Celtics will be in a good spot. Bam Adebayo has had one breakout game and three other pedestrian games. Unrelated, Robert Williams has missed one game this series.
Game 5 between the Celtics and the Heat will tip off tonight at 8:4530 p.m. ET on ESPN.
26 May 2022Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
The Celtics look to take control of series as they travel to Miami for a pivotal Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Eastern Conference Finals once again shifts to Miami for Game #5 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. So far in the series, these two teams have alternated wins. The Heat won Game 1 118-107. The Celtics won Game 2 127-102. The Heat won Game 3 109-103. And the Celtics won Game 4 102-82.
Both teams have won one game at home and one game on the road. The Celtics will need to win one more game on the road if they are to win the series as it is now a 3 game series with the Heat holding home court advantage. For some reason each of these teams has won a game convincingly and then gone on to lose the next game.
Interestingly, this series has followed the same pattern as the Bucks series with the Celtics losing Games 1 and 3 and winning Games 2 and 4 with the Celtics and Bucks alternating wins. That series went to 7 games and hopefully the Celtics can break that pattern in this series as a game 7 would be in Miami and not in Boston, as it was against the Bucks. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road in these playoffs, including a win in Game 2 in Miami.
Game 4 was pivotal because if the Heat had won that game, they would have gone up 3-1 in the series and teams that are up 3-1 in series win the series 95.4% of the time. Game 5 now becomes pivotal as well because in series tied at 2 games each, the team that wins Game 5 goes on to win the series 82.8% of the time. This is especially true for teams that are on the road for Game 5.
Both teams have dealt with injuries in this series. Robert Williams has been questionable going into each game in this series so far and he remains questionable going into this game due to swelling and soreness in his left knee. He missed Game 3 and returned for Game 4 and played 18 minutes. He was limping a bit in the 3rd quarter of that game and so his status for this game is once again up in the air. I’m thinking positive and including him in the starting lineup as the Celtics really need him. If he can’t play, Grant Williams should get the start in his place.
Marcus Smart sprained his ankle in Game 3. His ankle turned 90 degrees and then Kyle Lowry landed on it. He left the game but returned shortly afterwards to play the rest of the game but his ankle was too swollen and sore for him to play in Game 4. He is listed as questionable for this game and his status will be a game time decision. Once again, I’m thinking positive thoughts and have included him in the starting lineup. If he can’t go, Derrick White should get the start. Sam Hauser remains out with a shoulder injury.
The Heat have listed Max Strus and Gabe Vincent as questionable with hamstring injuries for every game this series and neither has missed any games and neither has shown any sign of having an injury. PJ Tucker is on the injury list with a knee injury. He played in Game 4 and didn’t seem to be hampered by an injury and so should play in this game also.
Jimmy Butler sat out the second half of Game 3 with swelling in his knee but played in Game 4. Although he struggled in the game, he said that the knee is fine and so I expect him to also play in this game. Kyle Lowry missed Games 1 and 2 with a hamstring injury. He played in Games 3 and 4 but once again is on the injury list as questionable.
If Lowry can’t play, I would expect Gabe Vincent to start as he did in the first two games. But, I expect he will also be fine to play. Tyler Herro was questionable going into Game 4 after suffering a groin injury in Game 3. He missed Game 4 and is once again questionable for this game. If he can’t play, Victor Oladipo and Duncan Robinson should see increased minutes once again.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Sam Hauser (shoulder) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) questionable
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Probable Heat Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Max Strus
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Bam Adebayo
Kyle Lowry (hamstring) questionable
Gabe Vincent (hamstring) questionable
Max Strus (hamstring) questionable
Tyler Herro (groin) questionable
PJ Tucker (knee) questionable
Jayson Tatum vs Jimmy Butler
This is definitely the key matchup for this game. After averaging 35 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in the first two games, he averaged 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1 steal in Games 3 and 4. It may be the knee injury that limited him in the last two games but I expect him to be ready to come out and play hard in this game. Jayson Tatum had just 10 points in Game 3 and bounced back to pour in 31 points in Game 4. He struggled shooting from the perimeter in both games but he made it a point to be aggressive and drive into the paint in Game 4 and was able to score inside and get to the line. He needs to keep that mindset in this game as well.
Robert Williams III vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo averaged 8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in the first two games, he came out in Game 3 very aggressive and put up 31 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 1 block with Robert Williams out. Robert returned for Game 4 and Bam went back to 9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Robert, in the meantime, had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks and made a world of difference on defense. Hopefully Robert can play again in this game as the Celtics need him.
Derrick White vs Victor Oladipo
Oladipo was given more playing time in Game 4 with Tyler Herro sitting out with the groin injury. He made good use of his minutes with 23 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Derrick White got the start for Marcus Smart in Game 4 and put up 13 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. The Celtics need White to once again be aggressive as he was in Game 4, whether he starts once again or comes off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the biggest key to winning every game, especially in the playoffs and even more especially in this series. Both of these teams play tough physical defense. The Celtics need to play team defense and they have to make defense a priority. They have to show urgency and aggressiveness on defense and not let up on the defensive end even a little.
Rebound - As with defense, rebounding will always be a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to grab rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of the game as well. The Celtics hustled and put out a lot of effort for the entire Game 4 and they out rebounded the Heat 60-39. They have to put out that kind of effort in this game also and not let up because they won the last game.
Urgency and Effort - These are the keys to winning this game. If they play with urgency and put out the extra effort, they have a good chance of winning the game. The Heat win their games by playing harder than their opponents more than by having more talent. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder and is more aggressive and plays with more urgency. The Celtics can’t let down as they have after every win in the last 2 series. They have to play like it is game 7 and play like it’s a must win game.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics had 16 turnovers in their Game 1 loss and they turned the ball over 24 times for 33 Heat points in their loss in Game 3. In their two wins, they limited their turnovers to just 9 in each game. The Celtics must limit their turnovers in this game. They have to make crisp passes and be aware of the defenders who are very good at getting into the passing lanes. They have to be more careful when handling the ball and not dribble into a crowd and not get sloppy with the ball.
Do What Works - The Celtics know what works for them. They did it in Game 2 and they did it in Game 4. They went away from it in games 1 and 3. They need to be aggressive and play with urgency. They need to move the ball and limit hero ball. They need to limit turnovers. They need to crash the boards and rebound with extra effort. They need to trust teammates and work the ball around to get the best shots. And they need to play team defense and not take any possessions off. They also need to come out strong and play aggressively and with urgency right from the start and play that way right up until the final buzzer with no let up.
Injuries - As I write this, there are several players who are questionable on both teams. I’m expecting all of the players who are questionable on the Heat to play, with possibly the exception of Tyler Herro. Lowry and Butler may be playing at less than 100%. I believe that if at all possible, Marcus Smart will want to play, but I also saw his ankle turn at a 90 degree angle and it may not be possible for him to play on it. Also, Robert Williams was limping some in the 3rd quarter of Game 4 and his knee may swell once again before this game. The Celtics need both Smart and Robert, especially Robert. Hopefully they can play.
Coaching - As the series goes on, coaching becomes more and more of an X-Factor with each coach making adjustments to counter problems from the last game. So far, the teams have alternated wins and losses and so I expect Spoelstra to make some adjustments since his team lost on Monday. Hopefully Ime can counter and pull out a second straight win.
On the Road - The Celtics are once more playing on the road in Miami. They will have the distractions of travel and of being away from home and playing on a different court. When the Celtics played there in games 1 and 2 there seemed to be a good sized contingent of Celtics fans there so it wasn’t a completely hostile crowd. The Celtics have shown that they can win on the road, winning Game 2 in Miami and winning 5 of 7 games on the road in these playoffs.
Officiating -Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the home team. Some favor the road team. Some just make bad, head scratching calls. In Games 3 and 4 in Boston, the Celtics got a friendly whistle and so the Heat may get some home cooking in this game. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls and no calls take them out of the game or affect their focus. Most of all, the Celtics have to stop complaining after every call instead of getting back on defense. Focus on playing the game and not on the officials.DraftKings
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are 3.5-point favorites on the road for a pivotal Game 5 in Miami. As with the first four games, the injury reports from both teams and the mystery and vagueness around them make it difficult to predict what could happen game-to-game. For the Celtics, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams remain game-time decisions. The Heat have their myriad of nagging ailments, too. However, outside of Tyler Herro missing Game 4 with a groin injury, everybody was available for Miami and expect the same in South Beach tonight.
The story of the series so far has been turnovers. With Miami struggling in the half court, they’ve relied on their defense to generate TO’s and get out in transition. In Boston’s losses in Game 1 and 3, they coughed up the ball 40 times. They’ve cut that number nearly in half (21) in their wins. The Heat are a high pressure, handsy crew on defense, not unlike the Celtics. But whereas Boston has dialed back their aggressiveness a bit in favor of forcing Miami to unfavorable shots in the mid-range, the Heat have continued to play up on the Celtics’ playmakers.
Heat fans have clamored about the free throw disparity so far in the series. The Celtics are a +39 in attempts through four games. After going to the line 18 times in Game 1, Jimmy Butler has only shot ten FT’s over the last three games, including zero in Game 4. To some extent, like turnovers, that’s a product of the Heat’s defensive aggressiveness. Tatum shot sixteen free throws on Monday night, turning the tables on Miami’s pressure. A home whistle could certainly help the Heat at FTX Arena tonight.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.
26 May 2022Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
The Celtics were successful in forcing a lot of long-2’s in their blowout win.
After spending so much time in the first and second round trying to optimize defensive matchups against Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Celtics have taken a different approach with the Miami Heat. Instead of prioritizing personnel matchups defensively, they're less concerned with who's guarding who and rather where the shots are coming from, particularly against Miami’s two leading playoff scoring options, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
For the most part, it’s fairly traditional drop coverage that the old Brad Stevens’ teams would run against the pick-and-roll. Above, Grant Williams backs off Butler after Jayson Tatum is picked off by Adebayo and gladly allows Butler to shoot a long-two from fifteen feet.
In the past, Boston might have chosen to aggressively switch that action with Williams playing much higher on the screen and playing up into Butler, but in Game 4, the Celtics relaxed their pressure in order to keep everything in front of them and bait Miami into jumpers.
After the game, Butler didn’t blame his knee that forced him out of Game 3 for his lackluster performance. However, he did seem less willing to create contact around the rim, opting for floaters and flip shots in the restricted area.
“When you shoot a lot of jump shots, which we tended to do tonight, it’s hard getting to the free-throw line,” Butler said. “I think we have to be more of a forceful-type team, getting into the paint, not shying away from contact and playing from the inside out. Whenever we do that and (don’t) shoot as many jumpers, we might get fouled a little bit.”
That could have been a product of Boston backing up on him a bit or Robert Williams and his 7’5” wingspan matching up with him a few times or maybe his knee is bothering him. Regardless, if Butler’s going to settle, Boston will live with that outcome.
They’ll do the same if Adebayo decides not to dive to the basket and instead, stop on the short roll. Here, Al Horford gives him space for an inefficient mid-range shot.
We know Adebayo is capable of more. He was aggressive in Miami’s Game 3 win and finished with 31 points on 22 field goal attempts and six assists. He attacked Horford off the dribble and in the post. In Game 4, he took only five shots, with many of them coming in transition or off offensive rebounds.
Right now, he’s probably Miami’s most healthy star and will be more aggressive with FTX Arena behind him in Game 5. However, Bam’s big game on Saturday night woke up a sleeping giant in Horford. If the Heat lean on Adebayo banging on the block with Big Al, that also plays into the Celtics’ hands.
Of course, Miami has an array of shooters and secondary playmakers that they can tap into, too. On Monday with Tyler Herro unavailable with a groin injury, Victor Oladipo looked like Indiana Victor Oladipo, scoring 23 points on 7-for-16 shooting (4-for-7 from behind the arc).
Because Boston isn’t switching, that leaves them susceptible to pull-up threes with defenders curling around screens and drives like the one above. Again, that’s something they’ll live with in the aggregate.
For the most part, the Celtics have handled Miami in the halfcourt. Some of that is due to the Heat’s injuries. Some of that is Miami’s roster construction. Some of that is the return of Robert Williams and he and Horford combining for six blocks and holding down the paint. As long as Boston can limit turnovers and subsequently, eliminate Heat transition points, a pivotal Game 5 could tilt in the Celtics’ favor.
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26 May 2022
26 May 2022
The Indiana Fever announced that Marianne Stanley had been dismissed as head coach after leading the Fever to a 2-7 start this season, the second-worst record in the W.
BREAKING: The @IndianaFever announced today that Marianne Stanley will no longer hold the head coaching position. Stanley, who was in the final year of her contract, is replaced by assistant coach Carlos Knox, who will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.— Terrika (@SheKnowsSports) May 25, 2022
Assistant coach Carlos Knox will take over as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Indiana has struggled and finished at the bottom of the standings in back-to-back seasons during her Indiana coaching tenure. Through nearly three seasons, Stanley led Indiana to a 14-49 record.
However, Indiana’s struggles aren’t just a Stanley problem. Indiana hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2015, with the franchise owning the worst winning percentage (.256) since 2017.
“I want to thank the Simon Family and the Fever organization for the opportunity to lead this team over the past two and a half years. I look forward to the next chapter in my basketball journey, as well as being able to spend more time with my family.” Stanley said,
The Fever has undergone several changes in 2022, starting with Hall-of-Famer Tamika Catchings, perhaps the greatest player in Fever history, stepping down as the Fever’s vice president and general manager in February. The Fever ended up filling Catchings’s role with Lin Dunn, who has taken over the front office roles on an interim basis. Dunn coached the Fever from 2008-2014, highlighted by its lone championship run in 2012.
Dunn’s first move was to trade Teaira McCowan to the Dallas Wings for draft picks, ultimately picking four players in the 2022 WNBA Draft, including drafting NaLyssa Smith as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.
Most around the W expected Indiana to continue their rebuild towards success. So Dunn firing Stanley comes as a surprise, especially when the Fever has been competitive through their losing season. The Fever had a four-point lead with seven minutes to go against the Chicago Sky, but Chicago’s veteran presence helped them outlast the young Fever, eventually picking up a 95-90 win.
As the Fever continue to play hard and show they’re developing at a reasonable rate, Dunn’s decision to dismiss Stanley is an indication that Dunn will likely be making aggressive moves in an attempt to turn the Fever’s fortunes around.
“With this new group of players, it is time for our organization to go in a different direction. This was a difficult decision, and we wish Marianne the very best in the future,” Dunn said.
Indiana returns to action on Friday against the Los Angeles Sparks.
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