Dave Hyde: Game 6 is time to hit panic button for Heat to close series, avoid Game 7 in Boston
Come on, folks, look at the bright side.
Well … um …
OK, there’s no such bright side. There’s no way to spin the Miami Heat’s 110-97 loss to Boston and come up with some way to make it smell better. The sky has fallen. The only question is if Heat Culture can gather itself for one last stand at home Saturday night in Game 6.
This is their Game 7. This is when we see if this talk of being resilient and overcoming adversity still fits. It’s also when see we how history will write up this series.
Are the Heat the 151st NBA team to start a series 3-0 who go on to finish it? Or do they edge closer toward becoming the first team to win those first three games and lose the series?
The Heat were steamed and-dry-cleaned from the first play Thursday, when Bam Adebayo started his bad night with a turnover and Boston’s Jayson Tatum went the other way for a dunk. The Heat’s starters, you see, never got started. Playoff Jimmy Butler shrunk to Regular-Season Jimmy under Boston’s defense.
Kyle Lowry may have retired before half.
Gabe Vincent joined Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo in the injury ward.
And, for the second straight game, Boston was the team you expected this series. The shooting. The defense. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla even called his time-outs at right time, so that advantage looks gone from here on, too.
“Give them credit for their activity in the paint,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said of a Boston team that held his Heat under 100 points for the second straight game and just the third time these playoffs. “Quick hands, strip downs, things of that nature. We have to shore that up. That’s two games in a row of that.”
Let’s be fair, too. Mazzulla had a good strategy. Boston’s defense packed the paint in a way to frustrate Adebayo into six turnovers. It put such attention on Butler that he only had 10 shots (and 14 points). If Butler only gets 10 shots in Game 6, this season is toast.
You half-expected Eric Spoelstra to summon his inner-Bill Belichick in Boston and talk about this game in a way everyone could understand:
“On to Cincinnati.”
Spoelstra’s Cincinnati is Game 6. It’s a place in the mind as much as the hardcourt at this point. That’s because the Heat’s game-by-game mindset after holding a 3-0 lead this series can be seen as follows:
Game 4: No panic.
Game 5: No panic.
Game 6: PANIC!
This is no time for the Heat to be calm or rational. The Heat should be the desperate team in the way they haven’t been these last two games. Boston out-rebounded, out-fought, outhustled — it simply out-Heated the Heat.
“The last two games aren’t who we are,’’ Butler said. “It just happened to be that way, when we stopped playing defense, halfway because we didn’t make shots. We just have to come out and play harder from the jump.”
They desperately need Vincent’s ankle to heal, too. That much was seen by Lowry’s play at point guard. He had four turnovers against one assist. That’s the kind of numbers that say you’re done as a starter, even an emergency starter. He can provide some good moments now and then. But to count on him?
The idea coming into the series was Boston had more talent but the Heat were tougher. The debate was if tough can trump talent. The one thing about Boston is it looks like a team of front-runners. When they’re having a good day, they’re really having a good day.
But when things are tight in the fourth quarter? That’s where the Heat need to take them. If they can get them there. If they can be the Heat of so much of these playoffs and not most of the regular season.
“We had a defensive mindset and wanted to get out and run,’’ said Boston guard Derrick White, who led the game with 24 points.
Can he do that in Game 6? Can Boston shoot like this for a third straight game? Or do the Heat return to the team they looked like for so much this series.
Game 6 is Game 7 for the Heat.
I can’t wait.