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Celtics host the Heat in a battle for the 3rd seed in the East

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The Celtics continue their home stand with a visit from the Miami Heat. This will be a very big game in the battle for the 3rd seed in the East.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
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Miami Heat (32-25) at Boston Celtics (34-25)
Saturday, February 27, 2016
3:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #60, Home Game #29
TV: CSNNE, SunSports, NBA-LP 751(DTV)/751(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 790 The Ticket, Sirius 207
TD Garden

Referees: Mike Callahan, Gediminas Petraitis, James Williams

The Celtics continue their home stand with a visit from the Miami Heat. This is a huge game for both teams. With the Heat just one game behind the Celtics and playing very well, a win by the Celtics would put them up 2 games on the Heat for the 3rd spot. A loss would move them into a tie once again. The road team has won the last 4 games between these two teams.

There are questions whether Chris Bosh will be able to return to the Heat after suffering from blood clots in his leg. Last year he missed the end of the season with a blood clot that moved from his leg into his lung so they are being careful with him. But, they may be getting stronger with the reports that Joe Johnson is expected to sign with them after he clears waivers. He won't be able to play in this game, but he will definitely give the team a boost.

At the trade deadline last week, the Heat traded Chris Andersen and Jarnell Stokes to put them just below the luxury tax line. If the Heat sign Johnson immediately, they will go over the luxury tax and would also be a repeater tax team, which includes a higher tax payment for team that is over the luxury tax in at least four out of any five seasons. If the Heat wait until March 10 to sign Johnson, they could avoid going over the luxury tax. Regardless of when they sign him, Johnson's 37% three point shooting will be a welcome addition to the Heat and will make them better.

This is the second of 3 games between these two teams. The Celtics beat the Heat in Miami on November 30 and they will face off one more time in Boston on April 13. The Heat won the series 3-1 last season, winning both games in Boston. The Celtics have won 9 straight at home. The Celtics are 18-10 at home while the Heat are 14-13 on the road. In spite of the injury woes, the Heat have been playing very well, winning 3 of their last 4 games and 9 of their last 13.

Miami is playing in the first of back to back games and will travel to New York to play the Knicks on Sunday. The Celtics next play at home on Monday. With the Heat being slightly undermanned due to injury and trades and facing a back to back games, the Celtics may be catching them at the right time. But, this won't be an easy game. The Celtics must bring their A game if they hope to get a much needed win here.

Kelly Olynyk is still out with the shoulder injury. Avery Bradley (knee), Isaiah Thomas (wrist) and Marcus Smart (thumb) have been playing hurt and are expected to play in this game also. Jonas Jerebko missed the final 15 minutes of the Celtics light practice on Friday with a sore ankle and is listed as day to day but last report is that he expects to play.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Goran Dragic

Shooting Guard

vs
Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade

Small Forward
vs
Jae Crowder vs Justise Winslow

Power Forward
vs
Amir Johnson vs Luol Deng

Center
vs
Jared Sullinger vs Amar'e Stoudemire


Reserves
Evan Turner
RJ Hunter
Jonas Jerebko
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jordan Mickey
Tyler Zeller
Marcus Smart

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Injuries

Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) out
Jonas Jerebko (ankle) day to day
Isaiah Thomas (wrist) expected to play
Marcus Smart (thumb) expected to play
Avery Bradley (knee) expected to play

Reserves
Gerald Green
Udonis Haslem
Hassan Whiteside
Josh McRoberts
Josh Richardson

Head Coach
Erik Spoelstra

Injuries
Tyler Johnson (shoulder) out
Beno Udrih (foot) out
Chris Bosh (blood clots) out



Key Matchups
vs
Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade
Wade isn't the player he once was, but he is still dangerous when he gets going. He has also had to pick up his game and shoulder more of the load with Bosh out and LeBron gone back to Cleveland. He is averaging 18.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Bradley has always played him well and hopefully he can contain hm in this game.

vs
Isaiah Thomas vs Goran Dragic
Thomas and Dragic are two former Phoenix teammates facing off against each other. Dragic was considered to be the premiere point guard that was traded, but Isaiah has proved to be the real prize from last year's trade deadline. Dragic is averaging 12.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. It would be great if Isaiah could show him up in this head to head matchup.

Players to Watch
Justise Winslow
In last year's draft, it was rumored that Danny offered pretty much everything in his draft cache to try to get Winslow, who is averaging 6.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists and is now starting at small forward for the Heat. He's about to come up against some hefty defense from Jae Crowder and hopefully Jae can shut him down.

Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside has been coming off the bench for the Heat, but still is a force to be reckoned with. He is averaging 12.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks. Over his last 3 games, he is averaging 21.7 points and 18 rebounds. Whoever guards him must try to keep him away from the paint and off the boards.

Keys to the Game
Defense

Defense wins games. The Heat are allowing just 96.9points per game while the Celtics are allowing 102.1 points per game. The Celtics have strayed from that defensive mindset that had them in the top 5 defenses in December. They must get back to making defense a priority and play tough team defense. The team that is able to lock down on defense will be the team to get the win.

Rebound

Crashing the boards will give the Celtics extra possessions as well as keeping the Heat from getting fast breaks and second chance points. However, Hassan Whiteside has been cleaning up on the glass for the Heat with 3.9 blocks and 11.4 rebounds per game and the Celtics will need to work hard to win the rebounding battle.

Be Aggressive
The Celtics have to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for jumpers, especially if the jumpers aren't falling. They have to dive for loose balls and be aggressive in crashing the boards. They can't afford to slack off or to allow the Heat to play harder than them. They have to be the team that wants it more.

Run and Play 48 Minutes
The Celtics need to run on every possession. They have the legs to keep it up and not let up and to tire the older Heat out, who are also slightly short handed and facing another game on Sunday. The Celtics started off running every time down the floor against the Bucks but then they slowed down and started walking the ball up and allowed the Bucks to get back into the game. The Celtics need to run and to play hard from the opening tip until the final buzzer.

Move and Take Care of the Ball

The Celtics need to move the ball to find the open man and the best shot possible. When the ball sticks and players try to do too much and not play team ball, they tend to struggle. They also need to take care of the ball and not make careless passes and turn the ball over because if they do, the Heat will make them pay.

X-Factors
Focus Factor - This is a big game for the Celtics' playoff position and each player has to focus on playing their best team ball in order to get the win. They have to focus on making sharp passes and on moving the ball to find the open man and they have to focus on crashing the boards. Most of all, they have to focus on getting back to playing tough defense. They can't let themselves get distracted and try to play hero ball. They have to keep their focus on doing what it takes to get this win. The Heat will be focused because they know the importance of this game.

Officiating Factor - Officiating can always be an x-factor. In a lot of games the officiating isn't a factor. But there are some where the officiating completely tilts the game in one direction or the other. Whether the officiating team or the league has an agenda and whether the refs let the teams play or call every little foul affects how the game is played. The Celtics need to play through the officiating and not let the way it is called to affect them.

Official Report
Let me start this Official Report by saying that it is rare for an official to have officiated more wins for the road team than for the home team. But somehow, the league has assigned not one, not two, but ALL THREE refs that favor the road team to this game. I guess they want to be sure that the officials in this game aren't influenced by the Garden crowd.
Mike Callahan
A veteran of 25 NBA seasons, Mike Callahan has officiated 1,483 regular season, 156 Playoff and 16 NBA Finals games.He was a member of the crews that officiated the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, 1994 Mexico Challenge and the 1996 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, Callahan spent three years officiating in the CBA, including the 1989 and 1990 CBA Finals. A member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School basketball team for four years, Callahan also coached the freshman basketball team after graduating.

Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. Callahan was one of the referees mentioned in an incident in Tim Donaghy's book. He and other refs would regularly wager with their fellow refs over things like who would call the first foul, who could give out the first tech, etc. Makes you wonder what game they might be playing tonight.

Callahan called game 1 of the Cleveland series in last season's playoffs. The refs were terrible in that game. Even the national TV announcers continually pointed out bad calls and how LeBron got away with so much They also mentioned that if LeBron was called for even half of his infractions the game would have changed. Cleveland shot 33 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. He called the second game this season against the Raptors and it was officiated ok as was the win over the Nets. The last game he called for the Celtics was at Denver. There were bad calls both ways all game but more seemed to go against the Celtics with the Celtics ending with 20 free throws to 34 for the Nuggets.

As with most refs, Callahan can be good or he can be very, very bad. He usually lets the teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle but still makes some head scratching calls from time to time. The Celtics are 3-2 this season and 6-4 over the last 10 games with Callahan. The Heat are also 3-2 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Callahan. His home W/L record this season is 19-24.

Gediminas Petraitis

Gediminas Petraitis is entering his first season as a full-time NBA official. Prior to joining the NBA, Gediminas officiated three years in the NBA Development League, working 2015 NBA D-League Finals, as well as working 12 regular season NBA games as a non-staff official. Additionally, Petraitis officiated three years of Division 1 basketball, mainly working in the Big South Conference, while also being a member of AAC officiating staff. Petraitis also officiated in various Division 2, 3 and Junior College leagues. Gediminas began his refereeing career at the high school level in Maryland, where he is a member of IAABO Board 12. He also serves as a FIBA Basketball Referee.

Petraitis called the first game between the Spurs and the Celtics in Boston along with lead official, Danny Crawford. In that game, they allowed the Spurs to get away with a lot of contact: pushing, grabbing, hacking etc. At the half, The Spurs had shot 14 free throws to 3 for the Celtics. Boston had 52 points in the paint compared to 38 for the Spurs and the Celtics were being aggressive in going to the basket. In spite of that, the Spurs finished with 25 free throws to 14 for the Celtics. They let a lot go on both sides overall, but did favor the Spurs. He called the 2nd game vs the Spurs as well along with crew chief Tom Washington. They favored the Spurs a bit in the first half, but called it more evenly in the second. They pretty much let both sides play. Both teams shot 22 free throws. The Phoenix game that he called with Brian Forte was well officiated.

The Celtics are 2-2 over Petraitis' career and the Heat are 2-0 over his career. Sometimes new referees will be intimidated by the home crowd and sometimes they go the opposite way just to prove they aren't intimidated. With his home W/L record of 16-20, it seems more like the latter.

James Williams
James Williams enters his sixth NBA season having officiated 278 regular season games and 3 playoff games. Williams owns 10 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, having officiated for the NCAA from 2001-2010. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, and has worked two NBA D-League Finals as well as the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game.

There hasn't been a lot of controversy with James Williams as a referee. None of his games stand out as terribly bad as with some refs. Williams called the game against Miami earlier this season along with Anderson and for the most part they let them play. However, he made a head scratching call against the Celtics. With just over a minute left, he called a foul on Amir Johnson, when Johnson and Bosh were both scrambling for the ball and Bosh landed on Amir. That gave Miami possession in a close game. Other than that, he's been decent in the games he has called for the Celtics. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Williams while the Heat are 3-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 20-24.