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Preview Game 80: Where The Celtics Should Be All About Business

Boston Celtics (55-24, 23-16 away) @ Miami Heat (55-24, 29-11 home)
Time: 3:30PM EST Sunday, April 10th, 2011
Venue: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami FL
Officials: Dan Crawford, Tony Brothers, Michael Smith
The Line: The Celtics and Heat are currently tied for 2nd place in the
East, with the Celtics holding the tiebreaker by winning the previous 3
H2H matchups between the two teams.
The Countdowninator: 3 Regular Season Thingys Left


This is the last time we get to beat the 'this game is important, even though its not a quarter as important as one single playoff game' war-drum, so enjoy it. You already know all the storylines in a game like this. From 'Can the Celtics turn it on' to 'Will they look to send a message to Miami?'. At this point in the season, without there being real consequences to winning or losing, they all seem a bit trite.

But, there are real consequences, and it has nothing to do with such abstract ideals as 'the switch' or 'the message'. The real tangible odds are that tonight's game will likely decide first and foremost which of the Celtics or Heat will have home court advantage in a likely 2nd round playoff match up. After tonight's game, neither the Heat nor Celtics should lose another game (Miami faces Atlanta then Toronto, so the Hawks may pose a problem..but if there was ever a 'that'll be a blowout' game, the Miami-Atlanta one is it), So whichever team wins will have a 1 game advantage in the standings going into the playoffs, locking in the 2nd seed. This is particularly important for Miami, because if by some unlikely set of circumstance the Heat and Celtics are tied, regardless of the outcome of tonight's game Boston will hold the tiebreaker.

The other real and tangible consequence of tonight's game is that the Celtics are currently tied with the LA Lakers in terms of wins, at 55 wins and 24 losses a piece. If the teams finish the season tied however, and brave the other contenders for a rematch of last year's finals, the Lakers hold the tie breaker indefinitely by having a better record against the opposing conference (East for LA, West for Bos). While it is at the very least unlikely that Boston will square off against LA in the Finals again this season, every little advantage counts, and Los Angeles has lost 4 straight games, with their next two being against Oklahoma City and San Antonio, respectively. There is a good chance LA will lose one game out of the next 3, and if Boston can win out, they'll hold the advantage over LA.

That's why this game matters. The Celtics have already proven that they can beat Miami in the regular season. Its not really debatable anymore. Today shouldn't be about 'sending a message' or whatever other Varsity Blues rally cry we want to superimpose on what we think the emotional tenor of today's game is. Today's game is about the numbers, and its a must win to have the maximum advantage heading into the playoffs. Ain't nothing emotional about it.

Its like a great man once said, "Its not personal, Sonny. Its strictly business."

Probable Starters, Team Connections, And Key Match-ups courtesy of Celticsblog's resident living saint and champion lawn bowler, FLCeltsFan. (Alright, she's not much of a lawn bowler)

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo 10.7 PPG, 11.3 APG, 2.3 SPG
Mike Bibby 8.6 PPG, 3.3 APG, 0.6 SPG

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen 16.6 PPG, 2.7 APG, .445 3P%
Dwyane Wade 25.8 PPG, 4.5 APG, .310 3P%

Small Forward
Paul Pierce 18.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.3 APG
LeBron James 26.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.0 APG

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett 14.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 0.8 BPG
Chris Bosh 18.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 0.6 BPG

Jermaine O'Neal 5.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 4.9 PPG, 4.0RPG, 0.8 BPG

Boston Bench Mob
Jeff Green
Glen Davis
Delonte West
Nenad Krstic
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley
Sasha Pavlovic
Troy Murphy
Von Wafer

Shaquille O'Neal (calf/old age) out

Miami's Reserves
Mario Chalmers
Juwan Howard
Eddie House
Jamaal Magloire
Dexter Pittman
Mike Miller
James Jones
Eric Dampier
Joel Anthony

Udonis Haslem (foot) out

Team Connections
Mario Chalmers and Paul Pierce both attended the University of Kansas
Jamaal Magloire and Rajon Rondo both attended the University of Kentucky
Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers and Dwyane Wade both attended Marquette University
Shaquille O’Neal played for the Miami Heat from 2004‐08 and was a member of their 2006 NBA Championship team
Jermaine O’Neal played for the Heat during the end of the 2008‐09 season and all of the 2009‐10 season
Eddie House played for the Celtics from 2008‐10 and was a member of the Celtics 2008 NBA Championship team
Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal were teammates in Toronto during the 2008‐09 season
Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West and LeBron James were teammates in Cleveland during the 2009‐10 season
James, Ilgauskas and West were teammates in Cleveland from 2008‐10
Dexter Pittman and Avery Bradley were teammates at the University of Texas
Nenad Krstic and Eddie House were teammates in New Jersey during the 2006‐07 season
Krstic and Magloire were teammates on the Nets for the 2007‐08
Troy Murphy and Erick Dampier were teammates in Golden State from 2001‐04
Sasha Pavlovic, James and Ilgauskas were teammates in Cleveland from 2004‐09
Carlos Arroyo played in 49 games including 42 starts for Miami during the 2010‐11 season.

Key Matchups
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
This is one of the better matchups in the league and these two have gone at each other in a lot of big games over their careers. In their first meeting this season, Lebron finished with 31 points while Pierce had 19, but most importantly, the Celtics got the win. In their last meeting, Paul Pierce had one of the worst shooting nights of his career as he would go 0‐for‐10 and would convert just one free throw. Paul will need to once again expend a lot of energy defending LeBron, but hopefully he can be more effective offensively in this game.

Kevin Garnett vs Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh always seems to be intimidated by KG. I can't say as I blame him. As one of the comments from the other side stated, Bosh gets mentalled by KG. Hopefully that trend continues in this game and KG has another big game and can also keep Bosh in check.

Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade
Ray Allen hasn't been as involved in the Celtics offense as he should be. Hopefully the Celtics get their ball movement right and can get Ray more open looks as they need him to spread the floor. Ray will need to expend energy defending Wade, who is always very active. Hopefully Ray will have Wade chasing him off of screens and wear down Wade's legs to limit his offense as well.

Rajon Rondo vs Mike Bibby
This may be the most key matchup. We have seen over and over again this year. If Rondo has a strong game, the Celtics play well. If Rondo has a poor game, the Celtics play poorly. As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. Bibby is not known for his defense and so if Rondo is aggressive, he should be able to get past Bibby at will. The Celtics need an aggressive and effective Rondo to win this game.

Keys to the Game
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.

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. The Celtics must be aggressive in beating the Heat to rebounds.

Defense - The Heat are trying to make defense their calling card this season. The Celtics have to make defense a priority as well. Defense wins games and defense wins championships. If the Celtics can't get stops, they won't win the game. The Heat have won 21 straight games when they score 100 or more points. The Celtics must play defense and limit their scoring.

Be Aggressive
- 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.

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. They need team play to beat a team with 2.5 superstars on it.

Desire and Effort
The Celtics talked about wanting to win and send a message against the Bulls, but then they came out and played with very little effort. This is a big game and hopefully the Celtics won't just talk about wanting to win, but will put out the effort needed to do so.

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