When Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan looked forward to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoff series against the Miami Heat at the FTX Arena on Tuesday night, it was a dej-decisive case. . . ugh.
Was there. Saw it. Lost it.
After being knocked out of the first round by the Heat at the start of the 2020 NBA Playoffs while coaching the Indiana Pacers, the defensive choke approach was once again an example of old becoming new.
McMillan said a constant element of the Heat and Eric Spoelstra scheme is buying parts to make it work.
So while Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler remain anchors, similar to how they were in 2020 against McMillan’s Pacers in the first round, the net thrown by the Heat front office reeled in defensive support to put McMillan’s team on heels. .
Once again, Spoelstra excelled as a puppeteer.
“It’s a system,” McMillan said, “his team is down 3-1 in the best-of-three series on Tuesday night. “This is a system that Miami has been playing with for several years. Of course, he works great with this team.
“But the system they use on defense, I ran into the same defense in Indiana a couple of years ago when I was in Indiana and we won the playoffs.”
At the same time, McMillan named the names of the defenders of the Heat, from Butler and Adebayo to PJ Tucker, Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin.
“Bam in that fifth position, his ability to switch to guards. You bring in a guy like Tucker. You bring Lowry. These guys are defensive,” McMillan said. “A few years ago they brought [Andre] Iguodala. Such guys.
“So, their defense that they play, they recruit personnel that match their system.”
In a way, McMillan was paying homage to the Heat’s collective approach, from Pat Riley onwards, and Spoelstra could move on to the next quarterback.
“They’re pretty solid, Butler mostly plays defensively,” McMillan said. “His ability to guard is from one to five. Bam’s ability to guard from one to five. Tucker’s ability to guard from one to five. You bring in a guy like Vincent instead of Lowry. His ability to hit the ball and pressure.
“So this is a system that has been in place in Miami for a while now. And they’re good at recruiting and finding guys that fit the system they want to play in.”
As the series progressed, Macmillan turned to the small ball in an attempt to change momentum. Instead, he found a large heat meter.
“They add speed,” he said. “A total of four guards.
And that came even after Kyle Lowry pulled out with a hamstring strain that sent him out of Game 5 again after missing out on Sunday’s Heat 4 game win when Vincent took over and brought in his own defensive energy.
After all, McMillian proved to be prescient, perhaps too prescient, when he offered his intelligence report on the Heat’s defense ahead of this series.
“They are boosting momentum with their pressure,” he said a week ago. “They are good at switching and Bam can guard from one to five. Therefore, we must force them to defend themselves. Get some ball movement. Be prepared for their changing defenses. They will move from the press to the zone.”
In the end, the Heat did all of the above, and all of the aforementioned players came out in waves against Young and the Hawks’ scorers.
“You have to give them credit,” Young said.