Winderman’s view: Caleb Martin the energizer money as Heat cash ticket to NBA Finals
BOSTON – Observations and other notes of interest from Monday night’s 103-84 NBA playoff victory over the Boston Celtics:
– At one point in the Eastern Conference finals, the question was if Heat forward Caleb Martin was the best value player in the series, in light of the three-year, $20.4 million contract he signed last summer.
– By the end of the East finals, the question was whether he was the best player in the series.
– As in a series that also included Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
– Remarkable stuff.
– Sometimes it’s about more than star power.
– Sometimes it’s about a spark.
– If nothing else, Martin has always been about energy.
– Against the Celtics, he also was about scoring and rebounding.
– Yes, Jimmy Butler set the tone at the start of the series.
– But Martin played as finisher.
– Creating a fear factor.
– And the sidekick Butler otherwise was lacking, with Tyler Herro sidelined and Bam Adebayo off his game.
– Speaking of . . .
– There were not many Heat advantages going into the Eastern Conference finals.
– Adebayo was supposed to be one of them.
– Adebayo seemingly needed to be one of them.
– Then came the past week.
– And instead it was as if the Heat had to carry their lone reliable big man.
– Yes, he still rebounded.
– Yes, he facilitated.
– But with Herro out, and with Butler gassed, the Heat needed their man in the middle on Monday night.
– Instead three early fouls.
– A 1-of-7 start from the field.
– Six points through three periods.
– So many chances to help the Heat create further separation beyond the 10-point lead going into the fourth.
– There actually were moments when the Heat was better with Haywood Highsmith at center.
– Allow that to marinate.
– To his credit, he came around late.
– His reward?
– The mass that is Nikola Jokic.
– In that case, the only choice will be to up his game.
– The Heat for the second consecutive game opened with Martin starting in place of Kevin Love, with the balance of the first five rounded out by Adebayo, Butler, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent.
– Vincent again had been listed as questionable earlier in the day with the ankle sprain that had him out of Game 5.
– The Celtics again opened with Al Horford, Tatum, Brown, Derrick White and Marcus Smart.
– Tatum appeared to be hurt on the game’s opening play, when Vincent attempted to take a charge, instead called for a foul.
– Of the Heat moving to Martin as a starter, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla pregame said, “They are able to switch more. They are able to be more physical. They are able to be more athletic, and it gives them another guy that can make shots and put the ball on the floor.”
– The Heat’s move came after the Celtics earlier in the series went to a smaller lineup, with White starting in place of center Robert Williams.
– “When you play the same team,” Mazzulla said, “you want to give different looks and change the rhythm of the series and change your team.”
– After being held out of the second half of Saturday’s game due to an ongoing arm strain, sixth man Malcolm Brogdon again was available for the Celtics.
– “He’s doing everything he can to be ready to play,” Mazzulla said. “I trust him and if he’s healthy, he’ll be a great spark for us.”
– Kyle Lowry entered as the Heat’s first substitute, with that substitution not until 3:43 remained in the first period.
– Highsmith and Duncan Robinson then entered at the start of the second period to make it eight deep for the Heat.
– Highsmith did not play in Game 6.
– Martin had a point deducted when a first-quarter was overturned by the Replay Center to a two.
– A Secaucus tradition like no other.
– Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he felt his team’s approach was proper for a Game 7.
– “I think we’ve messaged ourselves enough the last 48 hours,” he said.
– Among former Celtics in the house were Isaiah Thomas, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, who pumped up the crowd pregame.