Friday, April 23
TV: Comcast SportsNet, ESPN; Radio: WEEI
Venue: AmericanAirlines Arena
The Boston Celtics storm into South Beach looking to take a commanding 3-0 first-round series lead over the Miami Heat tonight at 7:00pm.
After outlasting Miami, 85-76, in Game 1, the Celtics, without the suspended Kevin Garnett, unleashed an even more torrid performance in Game 2, throttling the Heat, 106-77, behind 23 points and eight rebounds from KG's replacement, Glen Davis, as well as 25 points from the sharpshooting Ray Allen.
The last six quarters of this series have been rather lopsided, as the Celtics have outscored Dwyane Wade and co. 150-109. And while the offense has been adequate for Boston, the team as a whole has been relying on its defense to stymie Miami's offensive attack. Shots have been contested, the lane has been routinely clogged, defensive rotations have been crisp, and Wade's 55 points through the first two games haven't come as easily as some might have expected them to.
So now the series shifts to South Beach, sometimes better known as Dwyane Wade's house, which he tries to remind us all of from time to time. As Jeff Clark pointed out today, we've already seen some of the lower seeds in other series win their first games at home, like the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Fortunately for the C's, KG will be back tonight, fresh off SIX days of rest, no less. Boston has a golden opportunity to take a commanding, and I mean a commanding, lead in this series, but it will not come to fruition if the Celtics do not play with the poise and intensity we have so far seen out of them through the first two games of this matchup.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Heat: Carlos Arroyo, Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O'Neal
Keys To the Game:
Get Jermaine O'Neal the Basketball: The Heat's starting center hasn't exactly played up to par this series, which is probably the understatement of these entire playoffs thus far. O'Neal's hit just four of his 24 field goal attempts through the first two games, good for an appalling (or appealing, depending on who you're rootin' for) 16.6 percent, and his scoring average is standing at a flimsy 5.0 points per game.
Control the Crowd: Conveniently, this is basically synonymous with making everything incredibly difficult for the Heat, particularly on the offensive end. The C's will need a fast start to keep the folks quiet early on, and need to limit Miami's offensive runs (let's hope they don't exact vengeance with any 21-0 spurts of their own), as well as Wade's highlight reel-worthy plays.
Keep Crashing the Glass: The C's are a +14 in total rebounds through the first two games, thanks largely to the 50 the team ripped off in Game 2. It was a collective effort on Tuesday night, as Paul Pierce set the tone early, and every starter finished with at least four rebounds. Kudos to Rajon Rondo for grabbing seven of his own (this is your point guard, people).
Alternative Sources of Energy: While the starters have been doing their part, it hasn't exactly been a secret that Tony Allen and Glen Davis have two of the largest imprints on this entire series. Tony was the savior of Game 1, and Davis shared that same honor with Ray Allen in Game 2. Sure, they've both scored the ball, but it's undoubtedly been their overwhelming energy, and, particularly in Allen's case, defense, that has brought considerable grief to both Miami's first and second units. Two repeat performances from this potent pair would go a long way tonight.
Kick 'Em While They're Down: Erik Spoelstra has questioned his team's toughness. Erik Spoelstra has wondered where his players' heads are at. Wade is growing impatient with Beasley's lackluster play. O'Neal can't buy a bucket right now, which says a lot considering he's making over $23 million this season. Carlos Arroyo can't measure up to Rajon Rondo. The Heat are struggling, and Boston needs to do all it can to keep it that way. The C's cannot allow even the faintest glimmers of hope to break into Miami's huddle, as another demoralizing loss like Tuesday's would go a long way in determining the outcome of this series.
Who Will Win Game 3 Tonight?
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