The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat started the season squaring off in one of the most anticipated openers in NBA history. The Boston faithful were in playoff form, cheering exuberantly with every basket made by the men in green while booing and chanting “overrated” when LeBron James and the Heat had possession of the ball.
From the very beginning the pressure was clearly on Miami’s big three, and with every missed shot and turnover in the first quarter the pressure intensified. Despite a disappointing opening loss, 88-80, we have to keep in mind that Miami is a work in progress. Undoubtedly they will get better over the course of the season as the team chemistry develops, but will it be enough to compete with the veteran teams in the league?
No one can deny the talent oozing from the Miami Heat and their wing players: James and Wade are capable of completely dominating a game on any given night. However, without a true low post presence, each will find themselves playing a familiar style of one-on-one isolations no different than what they did last year while playing on separate teams.
Boston scored 38 points in the paint to Miami’s 24 with back to the basket, low post players while Miami’s points in the paint came primarily from penetration and put backs.
Early in the game, Chris Bosh attempted to establish a back to the basket, low post presence while being defended by Kevin Garnett. You could sense his lack of comfort with this style of play as he quickly reverted to facing up KG and settling for mid-range baseline jumpers for the remainder of the night.
LeBron James would also try his hand in the low post. In the first quarte, he was able to back Paul Pierce down for an easy lay-in. Boston quickly adjusted by sending help with either KG, Shaq or Glen Davis taking away the baseline.
On the opposite end, Boston revealed its blueprint for beating the Heat on its first possession. Shaquille O’Neal posted up against Bosh and missed a short jumper. He would capitalize on the next series of plays when he was the recipient of a nifty alley-oop pass from Rajon Rondo, and when he completed a fast break with a thunderous two-handed dunk down the middle on lane off another Rondo assist.
Ironically, the Heat made its most significant run to get back into the game when Dwyane Wade was on the bench and LeBron ran the offense as point forward. It was reminiscent of his days in Cleveland. James would score or assist on the Heat’s final 14 points at the end of the third quarter.
The Miami Heat team we saw competing against one of the better defensive teams in the league will be a different Heat team come March. As the big three finds cohesion with each other and coach Eric Spoestra settles in on a rotation that will allow each superstar to take advantage of their strengths, this team will excel.
In order for them to topple the Celtics in the East or the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the West, they will have to find a way to establish a low post presence. But for now, let us simply enjoy the evolution of one of the most potent offensive trios we have seen in recent years.