Is your team leading the Miami Heat at halftime? Don’t get too comfortable

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Entering halftime of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Final matchup with the Miami Heat on Wednesday, the Boston Celtics seemed to be in good shape. Not only did they lead by nine on their home floor, but they had forced nine Heat turnovers while hitting nearly 55% of their own shots. They were dominating the action at both ends of the court and looked poised for an easy win.

Then came the break. And everything changed.

The heat flared up from the depths. They stopped coughing up the ball. In the third quarter, they went on a 17-3 run and outscored the Celtics 45-25.

“[We] We lost our game plan discipline,” Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters Wednesday night after the Heat’s stunning 123-116 win, the third time they’ve played Game 1 on the road this postseason.” It allowed them to get out in transition and get a second chance. shots, didn’t protect the 3-point line.”

It won’t make Mazzulla feel any better, but he can take comfort in knowing his Celtics aren’t the first team the Heat have dominated in the second half of a playoff game. In fact, the ability to adjust on the break and hit opponents in the second half might be one of the best ways to quantify the #HeatCulture streak, illustrate Erik Spoelstra’s brilliance as a coach, and explain how the Heat, a no. 8 seed that was outscored by opponents in the regular season – continues to defy expectations.

This postseason, the Heat have outscored opponents by 10.5 points per 100 possessions after halftime. Last year, while leading the Celtics to seven games in the conference finals, they outscored opponents in the second half of games by 7.3 points per 100 possessions. Two seasons earlier, during his finals run on the bubble, that grade was 7.4.

After Game 1, Heat central Bam Adebayo he was asked what had changed at halftime.

“We have a large group of videos, and they have done all the statistics in half,” he said. “[They] It basically showed us where we were wrong and how we can improve in the second half.”

That list was long. The Heat had given up 40 points in the paint. The Celtics had torched their zone defense. Celtics star Jayson Tatum it was too comfortable (18 points). The Heat weren’t taking care of the ball. Also, and most worryingly, they lacked energy.

But it’s one thing to identify the problems. The real skill, which Spoelstra clearly has, is being able to communicate them to a team during the 15-minute halftime window of a game while laying out a plan for how to fix it.

For the Heat, that means leaning on the collaborative environment driven by Spoelstra.

“After looking [the film] and talking to the coaches,” Adebayo said Wednesday night, “we’re honest with each other, look each other in the eye and say how we feel and what we need to do.”

What was puzzling about their dominant second half in Game 1 is how many adjustments the Heat were able to make. It wasn’t just that his jumpers started falling. They’ve increased their energy level (rebounding four of their nine turnovers in the third quarter) and stopped throwing the ball all over the court (only three turnovers in the second half, compared to 10 in the first). They kept the ball out of Tatum’s hands (he didn’t attempt a single shot in the fourth quarter) and kept the Celtics out of the paint (only 22 points surrendered in that area). They took the Celtics off their game by slowing down the pace.

Just look at how Tatum described what happened to his team during the third quarter.

“We gave up some transition baskets, they got into a rhythm, they were comfortable,” he said. “We didn’t close out on shooters. We gave up some offensive rebounds.”

Of course, this being the Heat, their own player had a more succinct way to sum up his second-half performance.

“It’s just a mindset,” the Heat guard said Gabe Vincent said “Sometimes you have to punch yourself in the mouth to wake you up a little.”

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Closing in on the top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the boldest run in professional sports history. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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