Boston Celtics Exploit Miami Heat's Lax Defense in Last-Second Win

Ethan Skolnick@@EthanJSkolnickNBA Senior WriterNovember 10, 2013

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 9: Jeff Green #8 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after the win against the Miami Heat on November 9, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2013 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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MIAMI — For a play at least, the Miami Heat showed the requisite urgency.

Chris Andersen was leaping off the floor. 

Chris Bosh was flailing his arms.

LeBron James was scampering to a sideline.

Everyone was scrambling, desperate to stop the last-second shot.

And still, it wasn't sufficient, as Jeff Green—standing at the exact spot from which Ray Allen sunk the Spurs—splashed a winning three-pointer at the regulation buzzer.

"I had that play written down," first-year Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, after his squad's stunning 111-110 victory. "But I have never run it before."

He shouldn't have had the chance Saturday.

He wouldn't have, had the Heat taken the Celtics seriously throughout the course of the contest. Had the Heat locked down defensively. Had the Heat focused in mentally.

Woulda, coulda, what happened?

How do you lose to these Celtics—without Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce—when you shoot 57.7 percent?

"We messed with the game tonight and that was that," James said.

And while this stumble occurred early in the season, it ought to get the Heat's attention.

It certainly got Erik Spoelstra's.

"We didn't deserve to win that game, and it cost us in the end," the Heat coach said. "Even when it looked like we had daylight, we just were not doing enough of the little things or the tough things the way we're capable of. And I think it's pretty clear we were just trying to win this game at the offensive end."

Actually, that's been fairly clear throughout the first seven games of the season. Sure, there have been stretches—especially in the victories against the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers—when the Heat have been their old stifling selves. But otherwise, as Bosh acknowledged, "We don't have a very good rhythm defensively for the season. We have to correct that."

That is evident not only in the defensive statistics, but in one of the offensive ones.

For all the talk about the Heat's vastly improved half-court offensive efficiency—they had 26 more assists Saturday and lead the NBA with assists on 73.1 percent of their field goals—their decline in fast-break points has continued.

There's been a drop from 14.2 in 2010-11 to 13.7 in 2011-12 to 11.9 in 2012-13 to a league-low 8.3 this season, including just five on Saturday. That speaks, at least in part, to a decreasing ability to get stops and defensive rebounds in order to get out in transition.

The Celtics had 15 fast-break points.

They scored 111 points while getting to the line just 12 times.

What was the major defensive issue? 

"I could go on and on," Spoelstra said. "You could see it. The lack of awareness, of energy, of effort. Running it down our gut, beating us off the dribble, open shots all night."

So, everything.


"We gave up a ton of layups," Bosh said.


"They started with a lot of bombs, and they finished with a bomb," Bosh said.

Even so, in between, there was a chance to close, because Miami—even while resorting to more isolation—was scorching in the final frame. When James made two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining, the Heat led by four.

Even after Gerald Wallace scored too easily at the rim, and even after Wallace managed to foul Wade on the inbounds with 0.6 seconds left, it still seemed as if the scare was over.

Then Wade missed the first free throw, unintentionally.

Then he tried to hit the rim with the second.

"It didn't go as planned," Wade said.

Certainly not for Spoelstra. Unlike in Brooklyn, when he told Bosh to miss, and Bosh accidentally made it, Wade never received such instructions.

"I'll tell you what, we just need to cover more things," Spoelstra said. "We do. We need to cover more situations."

"I thought that he was going to try to make the shot," Celtics guard Avery Bradley said.

Because the ball missed the rim entirely, it went back to Boston, in the frontcourt, with no time run off.

"In college basketball, that game would be over because you have to go the length of the floor in 0.6 seconds, that is almost impossible," said Stevens, who was at Butler University last season. "In this, you have a chance to catch it facing the basket and shoot with 0.4 seconds or more."

Wallace inbounded over Andersen, with another Heat defender in mind.

"My focus was Chris Bosh," the Celtics forward said. "I already knew where I was going to pass the ball at. It was just the point of Jeff Green getting there. Once I saw Kelly (Olynyk)'s screen, I was able to let it go."

Green got there.

"We covered it as well as we could," James said.

"I was in the first row because I faded back so far," said Green, who scored 24. "I saw the shot when it went through. I just shot my regular shot, and I trusted that it would go in."

The question now is when the Heat will bother to begin playing their regular defense.