The Celtics and Heat meet for the first of 4 meetings this season. They will meet one more time in Boston on April 1 and they will meet two times in Miami on January 28 and April 11. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season. The Celtics are 73-47 all time vs the Heat and 39-19 at home.
The Celtics are 7-0 at home while the Heat are 7-5 on the road. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Heat are 8-2 in their last 10. Miami has won their last 3 games while the Celtics are looking for their second straight win. The Heat are playing on the second night of back to back games, having played in Toronto on Tuesday. They are 0-3 so far on the second night of back to back games. The Heat are the only team to win in Milwaukee and Toronto this season.
Marcus Smart has been listed as out for this game with an illness. He missed Tuesday’s practice and his abdomen was sore after taking a hard hit to the midsection on Sunday against the Knicks. There is no update on his injury but he is listed as out due to an illness.
At first, I thought Brad Wanamaker might start but the more I think about it, it makes more sense for Semi Ojeleye to start at small forward with Jaylen moving to shooting guard. That would leave Brad to run the second unit as they will need all the stability they can get against Miami’s strong second unit. But, Wanamaker or Green could start or even someone else. It’s also possible that the Celtics will recall Tremont Waters to give them some depth at the guard position.
Gordon Hayward participated in most of practice on Tuesday, including much of the contact portion of the practice. Although he is getting closer to a return, it will likely be a couple of weeks until he can play in a game as he builds the strength back in his legs. Romeo Langford returned to Maine for a portion of one game before going down with another sprained ankle.
Goran Dragic is out for the Heat with a groin injury. KZ Okpala has been out since October 27 and is considered a game time decision for this game. Dion Waiters was listed as active on Tuesday night after serving a 10 game suspension for consuming a cannabis-infused edible on a team flight. He had a bad reaction to it and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing. He has yet to take the court for the Heat this season.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Gordon Hayward (hand) out
Romeo Langford (G-League/ankle) out
Marcus Smart (abdomen) out
Two Way Players
Probable Heat Starters
Derrick Jones, Jr
KZ Okpala (Achilles) questionable
Goran Dragic (groin) out
Two Way Players
Semi Ojeleye vs Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is a very tough player to guard. He is averaging 18.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. He is shooting 41.5% from the field but only 23.8% from beyond the arc, although he can get hot from the perimeter if left open. He also gets to the line a lot, averaging almost 9 free throws per game. He scored the first 8 points in overtime vs the Raptors on Tuesday and played 41 minutes, posting a triple double for the game. At first I thought Wanamaker might get the start at shooting guard but the more I thought about it, the second unit needs Wanamaker to be the playmaker there and Semi would fit the defender role against Butler. Of course, I may be wrong.
Kemba Walker vs Kendrick Nunn
Nunn has been one of the surprise success stories of the season so far. He was undrafted in 2018 and played last season in the G-League. As a Rookie, he is averaging 16.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He is shooting 46.4% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need to stay with him on defense or he could have a big game.
Carsen Edwards vs Tyler Herro
Herro is averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists off the bench for the Heat. He is shooting 45.1% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. It may be Edwards, Wanamaker, or even Waters guarding him off the bench for the Celtics. Regardless of who covers him, they need to stick with him, especially on the perimeter or he will make them pay.
Keys to the Game
Defense- Defense wins games. The Celtics have dropped to 6th in the league with a defensive rating of 103.4 while the Heat are just behind them7th with a defensive rating of 103.5. The Celtics need to make defense a priority as the Heat will be playing tough defense and if the Celtics can’t limit the Heat’s scoring in this one, it will be tough to get a win.
Rebound- The Heat are averaging 44.6 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.6 rebounds per game. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics will need extra effort in this one to win the rebounding battle. The Celtics need to limit the Heat’s second chance points by crashing the boards.
Effort and Energy- In most of their losses this season, a lack of effort and energy were the biggest reasons for losing. This year, they have gotten off to slow starts and have allowed teams to out hustle them and play harder than them. The Celtics have to come out with effort and energy to start the game and not allow the Heat to start strong. They also need to play with effort right up until the final buzzer.
Move the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man for the best shots available. When they dribble too much or try to play hero ball, things don’t often end well. On the other hand, when they share the ball and make the extra pass, good things happen.
Bench Play - The Heat have a very good bench. Their bench is averaging 60.2 points per game. The Celtics need to watch out for Tyler Herro as listed above. They also need to be ready for former Celtic Kelly Olynyk who is averaging 8.7 points, but shooting 43.7% from beyond the arc. He doesn’t start but will likely be on the court at the end. Also, Justise Winslow is averaging 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The Celtics will need their reserves to play well and also need a little extra from the starters, especially if Smart will miss the game.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home for the first of a 3 game home stand. The Celtics have been playing well at home with a record of 7-0. The Heat are playing some young players, who sometimes struggle on the road and hopefully the crowd will be loud and the Celtics need to feed off that energy to give them an extra boost.
Back to Back vs 2 Days Off - The Celtics have been off since Sunday and should be ready to go. The Heat played in Toronto on Tuesday night and then had to travel to Boston overnight. The Heat’s game went to overtime and so they had to play hard right up until the end so may run out of steam towards the end of this game.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the home team. Some favor the road team. Some just make bad, head scratching calls. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let the calls take them out of their game.