Vs Miami 1/21: 8 Steals Is For Sure A Lot Of Steals

FINAL: Boston: 107 Miami: 99

The last Celtic win streak was snapped by this Miami Heat team and they came into Boston trying to do the same thing in this bout. It was a tale of the starters and the bench for both teams as when the Celtics had their starters on the court, good things happened, and when they had their bench in, bad things happened. Vice versa for the Heat as their bench really came to play while the starters left a lot to be desired. In terms of +/- the Celtic starters were a +114 as a unit while the Heat starters were a -70. Flip this to the benches and we saw a different story as the Celtics were a -74 compared to the Heat bench who were a +30. While +/- isn’t the be all end all of stats it told the story of why this game was so close. Whenever the Celtics were able to build the lead, they’d sub and things would all go downhill. The box score is a look into the production from the starters and bench.

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It’s like night and day in terms of shooting percentage and overall offensive output. The Celtic bench got buried as a unit shooting an abysmal 8-26 from the floor and a 3-8 mark from downtown. That just isn’t going to cut it. The most glaring run they allowed was once the Celtics built a 90-68 lead to start the 4th quarter (ie. Kyrie’s on the bench at this time and the Celtics always struggle), the bench gave it all back. Like clockwork, the Heat went on a 26-9 run while the Celtics ran a lineup of Rozier/Brown/Hayward/Ojeley/Baynes for about 6:30. Dion Waiters was running wild and was letting everybody know about it.

Kyrie came in on the tail-end of the run and it almost got out of hand. From there Kyrie basically said “I’ve had enough” and scored 6 straight points (all layups) to eventually push the game out of reach and lead the Celtics to a win.

His ability to close this one out was key again for the Celtics and he as a whole he was great from start to finish. 26/3/10 on 11-19 shooting and a career high EIGHT steals. After this outburst on the defensive end we got more Twitter fodder.

I don’t know how many times Kyrie’s just going to put up stat lines that haven’t been put up by a Celtic since Bird, but I could get used to it. The way Brad has gotten Kyrie to buy in so heavily on the defensive end is something I can’t harp on enough. He’s flourished and next to Marcus Smart has become an above average defender which is surprising considering where he was at on that end when he got to Boston. He continues to roast defenses and make us ponder what is actually possible on a basketball court.

While the bench really stunk it up top to bottom, the starters all did things to help this team win. Aside from Kyrie, the starters combined for 24-42 (57.1%) from the field and they all were able to play their games. Morris was the automatic offense from the beginning after struggling the passed few games.

Horford cashed in continuing his hot shooting (8-11) while also grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking 3 shots. Not only were his numbers on par, but he was a game high +30. During this winning streak Al has averaged 17.8/7.8/1.5 and 1.8 blocks on 65/50/100 shooting splits. After looking like the oldest man that’s ever played a basketball game he’s found his groove recently and they continue to make sure he gets involved. The spacing opens everything up and it gives them a viable option to get points off of post-ups and paint touches. It can be seen how this team performs when Al is a threat and it can’t be overstated.

Tatum’s robot shoe related struggles might be at the end of their time as he had it going last night. It’s another example of him letting the game come to him and getting his shots within the flow of the offense.

I know he wants to be Kobe 2.0 and has adopted his suspect shot selection, but I’d rather him play like this. Taking a fadeaway mid range jumper in the flow of the offense is one thing, jacking one up after pounding the air out of the ball is another.

On another note, the defense was impressive all night long. They had 13 steals and 7 blocks while making it nearly impossible for the Heat starters. Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow were basically both non-factors as guys like Smart and Kyrie worked really hard out on the perimeter. Players defended by Marcus Smart went 3-10, had 3 turnovers, and had one of their shots blocked. If you look at those numbers for Kyrie you see that players went a combined 4-17, turned the ball over twice, and had a shot blocked. This, on top of his gaudy steal totals made for a picturesque night for their guard defense and it made a difference in holding Miami to a mere 99 points.

After on off day Tuesday, the Celtics welcome in the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers to the Garden for a battle on the parquet Wednesday night starting at 7:30 PM ET.

-Chuck

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