his is the 3rd game between these two teams and the second this month. They will face each other one more time in Boston on April 24. The series is split 1-1 with the Heat winning their first meeting in December 115-107. Pietrus and Pierce were both out. Pavlovic and O'Neal started the game. Stiemsma didn't play and Avery was in the game for less than 4 minutes. Seems like a lifetime ago. The second game in Boston on April 1 was won 91-72 by the Celtics. The C's still weren't at full strength. Pietrus was out as was Ray Allen for this one. The Heat were missing Mike Miller.
The Celtics will be missing Mickael Pietrus for this game and I expect Doc to start Avery once again since that experiment seems to be working very well. Dwyane Wade missed the last Heat game with an ankle injury but I fully expect a rested Dwyane Wade to be in the starting lineup for this one. Wade was probably just taking a game off to rest so he'd be at full strength for this game. They added Ronny Turiaf to their roster at the trade deadline.
The Heat are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10. The Heat are very tough at home winning 23 and losing just 3 there. The Celtics are just 12-15 on the road. The Celtics are looking for their 3rd straight win while the Heat are trying to win their second straight. Both teams last played on Sunday and had Monday off.
The Celtics got a little breathing room in their battle for the Atlantic division lead and the 4th seed with their win over Philly on Sunday. They are now 3 games up on Philly and the surging New York Knicks for the division. They are also 1.5 games behind Atlanta and 1 game behind Orlando. The Heat are just 2 games behind Chicago for the best record in the East. They are 6.5 games up on the Pacers, who are in the 3rd spot.
With New York surging behind them and the Sixers still dangerous, every game is important as the playoffs approach. This game begins a brutal stretch of 7 games in 9 days. It's important for the Celtics to start this stretch strong and so hopefully they will come out strong and get a win in this one. Not only is it important in the standings, but it will give them a psychological boost should these two teams meet in the playoffs.
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Mickael Pietrus (concussion) out
PG: Mario Chalmers............................................. SG: Dwyane Wade
C: Ronny Turiaf
Rajon Rondo vs Mario Chalmers
Rondo is key for this team. When he comes out aggressively and sets the pace of the game, the Celtics follow his lead. The point guard spot is a weak spot for the Heat and it is the Celtics' strength. Rondo needs to come out with a chip on his shoulder and exploit this matchup.
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
James has been playing very well and is in the thick of the MVP talks. Pierce plays him tough but it takes team defense to keep him off his game. In their last meeting James had 23 points, 4 rebounds and no assists. Pierce put up 23 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. For the Celtics to win, Pierce needs to have a big game both on offense and defense.
Kevin Garnett vs Ronny Turiaf
Joel Anthony was the weak link in the Heat's starting lineup. Spoelstra moved Turiaf into the starting lineup looking for some toughness in the middle. Turiaf is a tough and physical player and KG will need to play him tough and at the same time avoid any cheap shots that could injure him.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Heat have once again tried to make defense their calling card this season. They are ranked 3rd in the league, allowing 89.3 points on 41.8% shooting, which leads the league. The Heat are also a very good defensive team. They are ranked 6th allowing 93.3 points on 42.9% shooting. Hollinger's defensive efficiency ratings list the Celtics first and the Heat 4th. The Celtics second unit has been very tough defensively in recent games and they need to continue that trend in this game. The Celtics won't win a shoot out between these teams as the Heat ranks 4th in scoring (100.2 ppg) while the Celtics rank 26th (91.5 ppg). In their first meeting, the Heat shot 56% for the game. In their second meeting, they were held to just 34.8% shooting for the game. The Celtics need to keep their defensive intensity for 48 minutes to win this.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics must limit their turnovers as the Heat will turn them into fast break points. Wade in particular is good at making teams pay for their turnovers. The Celtics had 24 turnovers in their loss but cut that down to 15 in their win. The Heat are ranked 3rd in the league, forcing 17 turnovers per game. They are also ranked 3rd, with 9.2 steals per game. The Heat are very good at turning those steals and turnovers into points. The Celtics must take good care of the ball and make solid and simple passes. Leave the spectacular and showy passes for another game.
Rebound - The Celtics have to limit the Heat's second chance baskets and fast breaks by crashing the boards. The amount of effort put into winning the rebound battle often follows through to the other areas of the game. In their loss, the Celtics grabbed 10 fewer rebounds than the Heat. In their win, they outrebounded the Heat by 2. They must crash the boards as a team and win the rebounding battle.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. The Celtics have got to be aggressive in getting to the basket and not settle for jumpers all game. They also have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls and winning the 50-50 battles. The Celtics can't afford to give up possessions by failing to hustle after loose balls and after rebounds. They also must take it to the basket especially if the jumpers aren't falling. The Celtics have to be the more physical team and not be the team reacting to the physical play of the Heat.
Team Ball - The Celtics need to play team ball. When they move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man and play as a team, they are tough to beat. When they revert to hero ball and there is little ball movement and they settle for quick shots, they rarely win. Rondo is a big part of keeping the ball moving and setting up the offense. He has to be more aggressive and run more and keep the ball moving. Pierce also needs to resist the urge to play hero ball and go into iso mode.
Bench Play - The Celtics bench has been rounding into form. They have been developing a defensive identity and with Ray's offense, Stiemsma's rebounding and shot blocking, they should be able to hold their own against the Heat's bench. They need to especially defend against James Jones who hit 6-8 from beyond the arc in the Heat's last game. The rest of the bench isn't all that scary.
Stay Composed - The Heat play very physically and the officials tend to ignore it. Playing against the Heat is very frustrating because of the bad calls that always go their way. The Celtics have to match the physical play of the Heat without losing their composure and they may stand a chance of getting some calls their way. If they don't they need to keep their composure and not let the bad calls or lack of calls take them out of their game.
A veteran official of 17 NBA seasons, Scott Foster has worked 1,074 regular season and 80 playoff games, including seven Finals games during his career. He was a
member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Europe Tour in Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain. In addition to his NBA experience, Foster has two years of CBA officiating experience, two years of collegiate officiating experience and six years of high school officiating experience in Maryland. Prior to becoming an official, Foster modeled for department store mannequin mold makers. He came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was also part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. In the OT win over the Knicks, NY shot 26 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. In the first loss, at New Orleans, the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 25 for the Hornets. The second loss, at Denver, was horribly officiated. At the end of 3 quarters, the Nuggets had 22 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. They ignored fouls against the Celtics all game but at the same time, called them for ticky tack and non-existent fouls. For the game, the Nuggets shot 31 free throws to 17 for the Celtics. The Heat are 2-0 this season and also 9-1 with Foster in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 23-19. Foster as a lead ref makes me nervous.
David Jones has officiated 1,335 regular season games and 40 playoff games throughout his 22 seasons as an NBA official. In addition, Jones officiated both the men’s and women’s 2000 Olympic Bronze Medal Games. Jones has eight years of collegiate officiating experience. He was one of the refs who helped to train Tim Donaghy and was very outspoken in condemning Donaghy's actions and felt that Donaghy's actions took the "ethics and integrity of the profession and threw them out the window." I guess he hasn't looked very hard at the current crop of refs that also lacks ethics and integrity. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Jones. In the first win against Orlando, the Celtics shot 19 free throws compared to 31 for the Magic. In the second win, the Celtics shot 12 free throws to 18 for the Raptors. In the third win, the Celtics shot 11 free throws to 25 for the Wolves. But the officiating wasn't really bad in any of them. The Heat are 5-0 this season and 10-0 in their last 10 games with Jones officiating. His home W/L record this season is 23-20.
A winner of the Vanguard Club Achievement Award in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the field of sports, NBA veteran official Michael Smith has officiated 1,078 regular season and 28 playoff games, as well as the 1997 Schick Rookie Game, the 2000 Mexico Challenge and the 2003 NBA Europe Games. In addition to his 17 seasons of NBA officiating experience, Smith has five years of CBA
officiating experience and eight years of collegiate officiating experience in the Big Ten, SEC and Conference USA. Smith also has 10 years of high school officiating experience, and was a member of the crew that officiated the 1990 McDonald’s High School All-America Game. The Celtics are 2-0 with Smith this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games. One win was at Orlando where the Magic shot 31 free throws to 19 for the Celtics. The other win was vs the Wizards where the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 19 for the Wizards. The Heat are 2-1 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 games with Smith. Smith was one of the referees Mark Cuban received a $75,000 fine for criticizing in an OKC/Mavs game this season. His home W/L record is 26-19.
Officials and Effort
The officials are always very kind to the Heat, to put it mildly. The Celtics have to hope that they can minimize their effect on the game by playing through bad calls and playing aggressively themselves. If the Celtics match the effort that they put into the Pacers and Sixers games, they should get a win here. They can't let up against this team if they want to get a win in the Heat's house where they are tough to beat.