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Celtics and Heat Square Off in South Beach

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Boston Celtics (24-8) at Miami Heat (17-15)
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
7:30pm
TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: 850 AM WEEI
Venue: AmericanAirlines Arena

The injury ridden Boston Celtics head to South Beach for a Wednesday night clash with the Miami Heat.

The Celtics enter tonight's game fresh off a 103-96 victory over the Toronto Raptors - a game in which the Celtics were so hampered by injuries that second year forward J.R. Giddens earned his first NBA start in place of Paul Pierce and Tony Allen answered the call at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his first game of the season with a sore left hamstring.

While Allen filled in admirably at point guard against Toronto (14 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists), that responsibility should fall off his shoulders, as Rondo will start in tonight's game. Expect to see Giddens return to the bench as well, as Pierce will also return to the starting lineup tonight after missing the last five games with an infection in his right knee.

The shuffling of lineups won't end tonight, however, as Eddie House (flu) is out. He did not fly with the team, but could join the Celtics later on this road trip. Despite Kendrick Perkins suffering from a similar illness to House's, he will start in tonight's game.

The Miami Heat kicked off 2010 with a 10-point loss (107-97) to the Charlotte Bobcats on January 2, but bounced back in a convincing way on Monday night by besting the Atlanta Hawks by 17 points (92-75) without starting center Jermaine O'Neal (groin) in the lineup. Dwyane Wade put in a game-high 28 points for the Heat. O'Neal is listed as questionable for tonight's game.

Miami's 17-15 record appears to be an honest representation of the team. The Heat don't seem to necessarily play better than their record, as they neither score a a boatload of points every game (96.65 points per game) or defend particularly well night in and night out (96.06 points allowed per game). Despite those averages, with a guy like Wade on the roster, it'd be difficult to count Miami out in a close game. The Heat do value the ball, as they're second in the league in fewest turnovers per game (12.71). Wade's 3.2 turnovers per game mark actually accounts for nearly a quarter of Miami's total turnovers per game.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins

Heat: Carlos Arroyo, Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley, Joel Anthony

Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Kevin Garnett (knee) and guards Marquis Daniels (thumb) and Eddie House (flu) are out.

For the Heat, center Jermaine O'Neal (groin) is listed as questionable.

Keep It In Mind: The Heat are just 1-3 when Dwyane Wade scores less than 20 points.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Ray Allen shot 8-13 en route to 23 points against the Raptors on Saturday.

For the Heat, Dwyane Wade poured in 28 points while grabbing eight rebounds against the Hawks on Monday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Eddie House scored 12 points against the Raptors, but shot just 4-11 to get there.

For the Heat, Joel Anthony took just four shots and scored only two points in 27 minutes against Atlanta.

Key Matchup: Ray Allen vs. Dwyane Wade

Honorable Mention: Paul Pierce vs. Quentin Richardson

Skinny: It took the Celtics all four quarters to vanquish the Heat in Miami back on November 29 and that was with the team near full strength. Boston had a 59-48 lead with 9:52 left in the third quarter, but the C's stumbled in their attempt to close Miami out heading into the final period. With Wade leading the Heat the Celtics will have their hands full if the game is close in the final minutes. The Celtics need to assert themselves defensively early on, try to build an early lead and knock Miami out before Wade finds himself in a potentially clutch situation.