BOSTON – Observations and other notes of interest from Thursday night’s 110-97 NBA playoff loss to the Boston Celtics:
– Erik Spoelstra doesn’t panic.
– But he does read the room.
– And the situation.
– Unemotionally and detached when needed.
– This is one of those times.
– With all due respect to what Kevin Love has offered since his February arrival.
– Heat-Celtics has become a scramble.
– A scoring scramble.
– And that requires mobility.
– Something Caleb Martin offers in overdrive.
– And something Love, at 34, lacks.
– Before Love’s arrival, Martin was the starter.
– With the Heat with a positive net rating with him in the starting lineup.
– That doesn’t mean Love disappears.
– But rather becomes your backup center.
– In place of Cody Zeller.
– Which Spoelstra did at the start of Thursday night’s fourth quarter.
– To this point, there has been no definitive need for change.
– But at 3-2, the comfort zone isn’t the same as 3-0 or 3-1.
– Selflessness has gotten the Heat to this point.
– Now it appears to be Love’s turn.
– The short-term approach was to start Haywood Highsmith in Thursday’s second half.
– Which does keep Martin’s energy off the bench.
– But can a waiting game be afforded?
– With Gabe Vincent out with an ankle sprain, Kyle Lowry returned to the Heat starting lineup for the first time since Feb. 2, the game before he missed six weeks due to knee soreness.
– The other Heat starters remained Bam Adebayo, Love, Jimmy Butler and Max Strus.
– The Celtics again opened with Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and Marcus Smart.
– Of the forced lineup change, Strus said, “We’ve all played together in different lineups and things like that. It’s really just about our mentality and our assertiveness.”
– Adebayo agreed, “We’ve all, throughout the season, adapted to having guys out.”
– Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla during his pregame comments addressed Vincent’s absence.
– “We have to have a heightened awareness to the personnel, the details, and understanding that each of their guys is going to ask to do more, and we have to do the same,” he said.
–Martin entered as the Heat’s first substitute.
– Cody Zeller followed, when the Heat were down 23-10.
– Then Duncan Robinson, which had Butler moving to the primary ballhandler.
– Later, Highsmith, in his first rotation minutes in the series, made it nine deep at the start of the second period.
– At that point, the only available Heat players not to see action were Omer Yurtseven, Nikola Jovic and Udonis Haslem.
– Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stressed at the morning shootaround that missteps at this level hardly are failures.
– “You have to expect the playoffs to be tough,” he said. “Regardless of what it is in a series, who’s up, who’s down, it’s always a challenge to win. This is heightened competition. It’s the best competition. Our guys love to compete. They love every aspect of what the playoffs present.”
– Spoelstra stressed he handled Thursday’s preparation as he does every playoff game.
– “This is what it’s about. It’s not about getting ahead of it,” he said.
– Spoelstra again emphasized the importance of an active Adebayo.
– “Him being aggressive is really important for our team,” he said, “but also getting other guys easy baskets.”
– The Heat then attempted to get Adebayo going at the outset, with limited success.
– Adebayo said he appreciated the importance of getting the series over with.
– “The sooner the better,” he said. “Guys can rest, quality treatment time, and get ready for the next phase.”
– Adebayo reflected at the morning shootaround about going against longtime friend and rival Grant Williams, the Celtics forward.
– “I’ve been playing against him since high school,” Adebayo said. “It’s just crazy that you can see somebody that long in different environments, different phases of their life.”
– Tyler Herro shot before the game, as he continues to work back from his broken right hand, but Spoelstra said not to overstate the moment.
– “Same status,” Spoelstra said. “There’s not an update on that. He’s just starting this.”
– Mazzulla addressed pregame the partial tendon tear in his shooting elbow that Boston guard Malcolm Brogdon has been playing through.
– “He’s playing through it, giving us whatever he has, and we’re just kind of going through it like that, how he’s playing and how he’s managing it,” Mazzulla said. “He’s fighting through, and grateful for that.”
– Mazzulla during his pregame shared a particularly poignant perspective.
– “I met three girls under the age of 21 with terminal cancer, and I thought I was helping them by talking to them, and they were helping me,” he said. “So having an understanding about what life is really all about and watching a girl dying and smiling and enjoying her life, that’s what it’s really all about, and having that faith and understanding.”
– Paul Pierce was among those in attendance, entering to a considerable ovation.