Heat will look to get Wade on track

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Heat will look to get Wade on track

BOSTON One of the things that has made the Miami Heat such a daunting challenge for most foes is the unpredictability that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade bring to the game.

Their size and speed and strength and much-improved perimeter skills make them a near-imp

For once, the Heat's game plan will be obvious.

There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Miami will lock in early and often on doing one thing - getting Wade the ball.
The Heat's inability to get Wade on track - or to the free throw line - was a major factor in Boston's 101-91 Game Three win.

Wade had 18 points on 9-for-20 shooting from the field. More significant, he didn't attempt a single free throw after coming into Game Three averaging 8.5 free throw attempts in the first two games.

Surely one of the biggest adjustments Miami will look to make is getting Wade as well as LeBron James - he had just six free throw attempts in the Game Three loss - in position to be more effective at getting to the rim.

"We have to get them in spots where they can continue to be aggressive, and they will be," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "We'll make some adjustments to make sure they're aggressive. They were able to get to the rim a few times. That's just the way it goes."

As the Heat's primary facilitator on offense, James made it clear that his mindset coming into Game Four was to find as many ways as he could to get Wade on track to start the game.

"I know that D-Wade, once he gets a few easy buckets he's very aggressive from that point on," James said prior to Miami's practice at the TD Garden on Saturday. "I had it going early on in Game Three, but I'm going to need his dominant play as well, so I will make a conscious effort to get him going early."

While it may sound good, it may very well put the Heat in a bigger mess than they found themselves in Game Three.

One of the big reasons why Wade had such a rough night for Miami, was because the Celtics made defending him a priority.

While the C's are certainly concerned by league MVP James, they appear to have spent a lot more time focusing on how to limit Wade by sending multiple defenders at him seemingly whenever he touched the ball.

"It's no secret, I'm getting doubled at the top of the key; I'm getting doubled in the paint," Wade said. "So unless I shoot a turnaround jump shot all the time which is not a good shot for our team, we're going to have to find other ways to loosen things up."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the C's approach to defending Wade wasn't all that different in Game Three than it was in the previous two games.

"We advent' changed our game plan much," Rivers said. "He just missed some shots. Good for us."

This isn't the first time Wade had a not-so-memorable performance in the playoffs.

In Miami's Game Three loss at Indiana, Wade had just five points on 2-for-13 shooting and was 1-for-2 from the line. Trailing 2-1 after the Game Three loss, Wade bounced back with a 30-point, nine-rebound, six-assist night in a 101-93 Game Four win.

"He's been slowed down before and came back pretty well," said Rajon Rondo who was among the different defenders used by the Celtics in trying to limit Wade. "He's a strong player, he's a good player, he's going to be aggressive. I'm sure he's going to try and attack and get to the line (in Game Four). We'll do the same. Regardless of who they have on their side, we're going to try and do our thing and that's play team defense, shrink the floor and rebound the ball."

Wade had nothing but praise for the Celtics defense and the job they did on limiting him in Game Three. Still, he's confident that he will have more opportunities to be effective - more effective - in Game Four on Sunday from the field as well as the free throw line.

"I'm a patient person, so eventually things will hopefully loosen up and I get opportunities where I can attack and get into a rhythm a little more," Wade said. "But you give them and Doc Rivers credit for coming up with the scheme. Now we have to do our jobs and make adjustments."

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.