The Celtics host the Heat for the 3rd of 4 regular season games this season. The series is tied 1-1 with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics won 107-99 in Boston on 1/21 while the Heat won 115-99 in Miami on 1/10. They will meet for the 4th and final time in Miami on Wednesday in a home and home set.
For the second straight game, the Celtics face a team desperate for a win to solidify their playoff positioning. The Heat are in the 8th and final playoff spot. They are just half a game ahead of Orlando, who sit outside in 9th place. But, they are also just half a game behind Brooklyn for the 7th spot and 1 game behind 6th place Detroit. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have won their last 2 games. Strangely, they have a better record on the road (20-17) than they do at home (18-21).
The Celtics moved into 4th place with a win over the Pacers on Friday. With both Boston and Indiana losing on Saturday, the Celtics remain in 4th place, tied with Indiana and facing them for the 4th and final time on Friday. The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 games and are 27-12 at home.
Al Horford and Kyrie Irving both sat out Saturday’s game against Brooklyn for load management and also to rest Horford’s sore knee. Kyrie isn’t on the injury report for this game and Horford is listed as probable. Jayson Tatum was questionable with an illness going into the Nets game but he played and will likely play in this game as well. Jaylen Brown is questionable with back spasms.
Derrick Jones, Jr is listed as questionable for personal reasons. He missed Saturday’s shoot around but played in Saturday’s game. If he can’t play in this game, James Johnson will probably start in his place. Rodney McGruder (knee), Josh Richardson (heel), and Justise Winslow (thigh) are all out.
Probable Celtics Starters
Al Horford (knee) probable
Jaylen Brown (back) questionable
Two Way Players
Probable Heat Starters
Rodney McGruder (knee) out
Josh Richardson (heel) out
Justise Winslow (thigh) out
Derrick Jones, Jr (personal) questionable
Two Way Players
Kyrie Irving vs Goran Dragic
Goran Dragic missed the first two games between these two teams. He is averaging 14.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Hopefully Kyrie will be rested and ready to have a big game after getting the last game off.
Al Horford vs Kelly Olynyk
Hopefully Al will be good to go for this game. Kelly is averaging 10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He leads the team in charges taken with 13. Hopefully Al can keep him from having a big revenge game against the Celtics.
Terry Rozier vs Dwyane Wade
This will likely be Wade’s final game at the TD Garden. After the last game in Miami, Wade and Rozier traded jerseys and Rozier admitted to being a big Wade fan. Rozier will likely be matched up with Wade off the bench. Wade scored 19 in the first game vs Boston this season and 8 in the second. He is averaging 19.7 points against Boston over his career. He is averaging 14.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game and is still capable of having a big game if not well defended.
Keys to the Game
Defense- Defense wins games. The Celtics have dropped to 7th in the league with a defensive rating of 107.1 while the Heat ahead of them at 6th with a defensive rating of 107.0. The Celtics allow 108.1 points per game while the Heat allow just 105.6 points per game. 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 46.2 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 44.5 rebounds per game. The Heat are 6th with 14.3 second chance points per game so beating them to rebounds will be very important. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics will need extra effort in this one to win the rebounding battle.
Be Aggressive- The Celtics have to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for outside shots, especially if the outside shots 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.
Effort and Energy- In most of their losses this season, a lack of effort and energy were the biggest reasons for losing. Last season’s team was never out of a game because of how hard they played and they never let up. This year, they have lost big leads in many games and have allowed teams to out hustle them and play harder than them all season. They have to turn that around if they hope to win in the post season.
Move the Ball - The Celtics are 2-7 when they have 19 or fewer assists. They 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.
Home Game - The Celtics are back at home after losing on the road on Saturday. The Celtics have been playing well at home with a record of 27-12. The Heat very strangely play better on the road then they do at home with a road record of 20-17, although they lost their last game here in Boston and won their home game. The crowd needs to be loud and the Celtics need to feed off that energy to give them an extra boost.
Motivation - The Celtics should be motivated to keep that 4th seed as they can’t depend on the Pacers to lose as they are home against the Pistons. They have to be motivated to play their best and with energy and as a team. On the other hand, the Heat are very motivated to stay in the playoffs. A loss can mean dropping out of the playoffs altogether for them. Which motivation will be stronger?
Officiating - Once again, the Celtics will have to deal with one of the worst refs in the league. Brothers is very inconsistent. One game the calls will seemingly favor your team and the next, they will go completely against you. He will let teams play in the first three quarters and then down the stretch call every little touch and then some. You never know what you will get with Brothers as the lead ref and that is never a good thing.