Biggest questions facing the Miami Heat in Game 6 vs the Celtics

May 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) controls the ball against Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) in the first quarter during game five of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
May 25, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) controls the ball against Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) in the first quarter during game five of the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

After leading the Eastern Conference finals 3-0, the Miami Heat are now 3-2 against the Boston Celtics following two blowout losses. Can they bounce back and close out this series at home in Game 6 on Saturday night? The All U Can Heat staff got together to talk about their level of concern, adjustments and more.

What number is your panic meter set at (1-10)? Do you still believe the Heat will win the Eastern Conference finals?

Azam Masood: I’m at about a 7 right now. I am not feeling great, but if Miami makes a few obvious adjustments, they can win Game 6.

Stephanie Meadows: About a 6. I have full faith in this resilient team. As is the case in playoff series, the tables can turn, which they have. I think if the coaching staff makes the right adjustments and the Heat come out with more energy and the confidence we are used to seeing, then yes, the Heat can win the Eastern Conference.

Noah Decker: My panic meter is set at 5. I do not believe that a team this mentally tough, led by one of the greatest coaches in NBA history is capable of losing four straight games in a playoff series. There are a few things that concern me. The first is the health of Gabe Vincent. The Heat have already lost two other guards (Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo) to injuries. Vincent is one of the best shot-makers on the team and takes care of the ball. His defense was gravely missed in Game 5. If he is unable to go the rest of the series, the Heat have few options to replace his impact. My other concern is that if the Heat do not win Game 6, they will have to play a Game 7 in Boston. Given the context of the series, that arena might have the most energy it has ever had, which is saying a lot. A Game 7 in Boston would be a tough environment to win in.

Does Erik Spoelstra need to make a starting lineup change? If so, what should be the starting five? If not, then why?

Azam: Absolutely, and it’s been long overdue. Kevin Love is not the answer. He helped against the two-big lineups Milwaukee and New York played, but I’m not even sure if he warrants a bench role in this series. I alluded to this during our last roundtable when the series began, but the minute the Celtics went away from their two-big lineup of Al Horford and Robert Williams, Miami needed to do the same. It’s difficult to bench a starter after winning multiple games and being up 3-0, but Love has been a giant liability on defense to start every first and third quarter, and he’s not enough of a threat on offense. There’s no point in making a panic-Caleb Martin substitution three or four minutes in when Miami inevitably falls behind — just start him!

If Spo wants to keep Caleb on the bench, then he can insert Haywood Highsmith, whose deep freeze most of this postseason is looking analogous to what Boston did not playing Grant Williams until Game 2 of these conference finals. He is a tailor-made fit for this series defensively and showed some offensive juice in the loss Thursday. The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson shared some great stats on Highsmith’s defense vs Boston.

Stephanie: I believe that Erik Spoelstra needs to make various changes, including the starting lineup. Kevin Love should come off the bench only if needed. I would rather see Duncan Robinson in the starting lineup to match Boston’s 3-point shooting or Caleb Martin for defense. They are both having great series. Duncan with his passing, cuts, 3-point shooting, and even some credible defense. Caleb has been among Miami’s most consistent contributors and can provide more energy and defense from the jump.

Noah: If Love can turn back the clock and turn into the All-NBA rebounder he once was, then no. Since that is unlikely to happen, a change might be needed. I like the way Caleb Martin has been scoring off the bench. As long as the starting lineup can produce offensively from the tip, there is no need to start Martin. I expect a better start offensively to Game 6 for Miami; Jimmy Butler has been one of the best first quarter scorers in the postseason, plus the Heat are home which is going to help shooters like Strus feel more comfortable. If the Heat found one thing in Game 5, it is that Haywood Highsmith can make an impact in this series. He can make open shots and play excellent defense. Considering how Boston has been tightening up its defense around Butler in the paint, Butler is going to need all the spacing he can get. It would be a bit risky considering that Highsmith has not played too many minutes in this series, but starting him might be the move for Game 6.

Rank the following players in order of who needs to step up the most: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, wildcard (up to you).

Azam: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry, in that order

Jimmy simply has to play engaged basketball on Saturday. For most of the last eight quarters, he’s been playing as if this is a December game in Detroit. He’s not attacking mismatches, struggling with lift in the paint, passing late in the clock and forcing his teammates to make difficult decisions. This happened last season, with Butler playing two utterly miserable games in a row before having a Game 6 that was arguably the greatest in Heat postseason history.

Bam, on the other hand, was often aggressive, but incredibly sloppy with the ball. Boston’s physicality with him inside is clearly bothering him, but if he commits to adjusting how low he’s bringing the ball on his attacks, that should alone alleviate some of his issues.

Duncan Robinson was one of the few players who played with any intention on offense, and he needs to give Miami one more game of elite spacing and decisive attacking off the bounce whenever Boston closes his air space. Lastly, I’m unfortunately out on Kyle Lowry again. This was a strong postseason run through two rounds, but in this series he’s resembled the player who let Miami down in 2022. If Gabe Vincent is ready and able to play tomorrow, Kyle’s minutes should be limited.

Stephanie: Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson and Max Strus (I went with two wildcards).

In Game 5, Duncan played well and he’s been consistent in these playoffs. The Heat need another strong performance by him and Strus, especially to match Boston’s now-hot 3-point shooting. But most of the pressure is on Bam and Jimmy. Bam needs to first focus on holding onto the ball. Turnovers like he had in Game 5 aren’t going to cut it. As for Jimmy, it’s great that he is talking confidently but he looks gassed in these games.

Noah: Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler

After a disappointing postseason last year, Lowry bounced back this year and has made an impact in these playoffs, including Game 1 of this series. However, his production has since slipped. Lowry was a big reason the Heat lost Game 5, failing to make an early impact when he replaced Vincent in the starting lineup. Lowry is capable of bringing tremendous energy and effort to this team. The Heat need him to set that tone.

Adebayo also had a great start to this series. The Heat are undefeated this postseason when Bam scores 20 points and, in the first two games, he eclipsed that mark. However, he’s averaging just 9 shots per game in the last three games.

Butler is capable of carrying this Heat team to the Finals but, if his teammates can’t produce, the Celtics will load up on him and make it difficult for him to have the kind of game the Heat need.

Next. Miami Heat need "The Bam Game". dark