As the Boston Celtics prepare for their Eastern Conference finals opener against the Miami Heat, the coaching staff has probably drilled them on how to attack the different zone defenses they will inevitably face.
However, according to an Eastern Conference coach who spoke with Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney under the condition of anonymity, Al Horford‘s presence within the rotation will go a long way to limiting the effectiveness of Miami’s zone defense.
“When the Heat goes from their crazy, wild man defense to their zone, it is not going to be a tough adjustment for Boston like it is for other teams,” The coach said. “Now they got the ball handlers — [Marcus] Smart, Derrick White, [Malcolm] Brogdon — to bust the zone, and they got the shooters to bust the zone. Al Horford is a key because if he is making 3s, Bam [Adebayo] has to go with him, and then the whole defense falls apart.”
Horford ended the season as one of the NBA’s most fearsome perimeter scorers but has struggled during the playoffs, converting just 27.5% of his 5.7 attempts per game.
Al Horford Sends Stark Reminder to Celtics
During a recent discussion with Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Steve Bulpett, Horford discussed the urgency with which he believes the Celtics should be approaching games, noting that championship windows don’t stay open for long.
“If you look at it, the reality is that even though a lot of younger guys think they have opportunities and will have more of them, these doors close,” Horford said. “So when we’re in these positions, I think everybody is starting to understand that, you know, even though, ‘Oh, I’m young. I have time,’ and this and that, it’s not guaranteed that you’re going to be in these positions. That’s something that I feel like we understand, and that’s why we’re trying to make the most of it.”
Miami will surely pose a different threat than the Philadelphia 76ers, but given Boston’s strength in depth, and the talent level of the top seven or eight in their rotation, they should be able to advance to the NBA Finals if they stay locked in throughout the series.
Jimmy Butler Sends Message to the Boston Celtics
Following a Miami Heat practice session on May 16, Jimmy Butler cut a confident figure, claiming 2023 was the Heat’s year to win a championship during an interview with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
“This year is our year. We’re going to go into this Game 1 and do what we’re supposed to do and be the first one to four. We are very capable of it. We have enough. Guys are playing some incredible basketball. I like our chances, as does everyone in this organization,” Jimmy Butler said.
Butler has been a problem for opposing teams throughout the postseason, producing a stat line of 31.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on 52.7% shooting from the field and a 36.1% conversion rate from deep.