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Preview: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Game #46

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The short handed Celtics look to get back on track as they visit the Miami Heat.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics and Heat meet for the second of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics beat the Heat 112-93 on December 4. They will meet one more time in Boston on April 1 and they will meet once again in Miami on April 11. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season. The Celtics are 74-47 all time vs the Heat and 34-28 in Miami.

The Heat are playing on the second night of back to back games. They beat the Magic at home on Monday and so they don’t have to travel after the game. The Heat are 3-5 on the second night of back to back games. One of those 5 losses is to the Celtics in the first meeting between them.

This is the 3rd game of a 3 game road trip for the Celtics. They are 1-1 so far on the trip. The Heat are playing in the 5th game of a 5 game home stand. The Heat are 3-1 so far on this home stand with the loss coming against the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s very tough to beat the Heat at home and the Celtics need to come ready to play hard if they hope to accomplish that feat.

The Celtics are 4th in the East, 1.5 games behind the Heat, who are in second place and the Raptors who moved to 3rd with the Heat’s win on Monday. The Celtics are 12-10 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Heat are 21-2 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are coming off a loss while the Heat are coming off a win.

The Celtics can’t seem to get healthy. After one game with almost everyone healthy, they are back to being short handed again. After the New Orleans game, Brad said that Jayson Tatum was close to returning but has now been downgraded to doubtful. Javonte Green is questionable with knee soreness. Enes Kanter and Robert Williams are both out with hip injuries. Romeo Langford has been recalled from the Red Claws for this game and Tacko Fall is also with the team.

For the Heat, Jimmy Butler (ankle) and Bam Adebayo (ankle) were both questionable for the Orlando game on Monday, but both started in that game so should play in this game. Kendrick Nunn missed Monday’s game with Achilles soreness and he may or may not return for this game. He is listed as questionable and will be a game time decision. KZ Okpala is on assignment with the G-League. Justise Winslow is out with a back injury.

With Jayson Tatum a game time decision and listed as doubtful, I’m going to guess that Marcus Smart starts at shooting guard, Jaylen Brown moves up to small forward and Gordon Hayward moves up to power forward. The Heat started Tyler Herro in place of Kendrick Nunn on Monday and I’ve included him in the starting lineup for this one, although it’s possible that Nunn will return for this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Carsen Edwards
Semi Ojeleye
Vincent Poirier
Brad Wanamaker
Grant Williams
Romeo Langford
Tacko Fall

Injuries/NWT
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Enes Kanter (hip) out
Javonte Green (knee) questionable
Jayson Tatum (groin) doubtful

Two Way Players
Tremont Waters
Tacko Fall

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Heat Starters

Heat Reserves
Goran Dragic
Udonis Haslem
James Johnson
Derrick Jones, Jr
Kelly Olynyk
Dion Waiters

Injuries/NWT
KZ Okpala (gleague) out
Justise Winslow (back) out
Kendrick Nunn (Achilles) questionable

Two Way Players
Kyle Alexander
Gabe Vincent

Head Coach
Erik Spoelstra

Key Matchups

Jaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler
Butler was questionable for Monday’s game but he was able to play. He should be fine for this game. He is averaging 20.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. He is shooting 43.9% from the field and just 25.5% from beyond the arc. While he doesn’t seem to be a threat from the perimeter, he still needs to be guarded there because he can hit them from out there.

Gordon Hayward vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo has been getting a lot of All Star buzz from Miami. He is averaging 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He is shooting 58.6% from the field and 10% from beyond the arc (1-10). He finished Monday’s game with a triple double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Hayward needs to keep Adebayo out of the paint especially.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Smart vs Duncan Robinson
Robinson is averaging 12.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He is shooting 46.5% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. Robinson is way more dangerous than his 12 point average might suggest. He is coming off a 21 point game against Orlando where he shot 67% on 3’s. Marcus needs to stay with him, particularly on the perimeter.

Keys to the Game
Defense- Defense wins games. The Celtics have dropped to 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.5 while the Heat are 14th with a defensive rating of 108.3. 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- Both of these teams are averaging 45.4 rebounds per game. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics will need extra effort in this one to win the rebounding battle. The Heat are 28-3 when they out-rebound their opponents. The Celtics are coming off a loss where they were out-rebounded 54-37. When the Celtics put out the extra effort to win the rebounding battle, it usually leads to a win. 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. They have gotten off to slow starts in most of their losses 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 get out to a good start. They also need to play with effort right up until the final buzzer. The Heat will be looking to avenge their earlier loss and so the Celtics can’t coast because they beat them once. They have to be ready for a motivated Heat team and match their effort and energy.

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. The Celtics have to keep the ball moving.

Bench Play - The Heat have a very good bench. Their bench is averaging 66.2 points per game. The Celtics need to be ready for former Celtic Kelly Olynyk who is averaging 7.8 points, but shooting 40.6% from beyond the arc. He doesn’t start but will likely be on the court at the end. Also, they need to watch out for Dion Waiters, who is averaging 14 points and shooting 44.4% from beyond the arc. Goran Dragic is averaging 15.8 points and shooting 39.2% on 3s. The Celtics will need their reserves to play well and also need a little extra from the starters, especially if Green will miss the game.

X-Factors
Road Game - The Celtics are on the road and have struggled at times when away from home, with just a 12-10 road record. The Heat on the other hand, have been very tough at home, losing only 2 games there. The Celtics have to block out the hostile crowd and they have to focus on playing the game and not allow the distractions of playing on the road take their minds off the game.

Back to Back - The Heat are playing in the second of back to back games. The Heat are just 3-5 on the second night of back to back games. They are a deep team and didn’t have to travel after Monday’s game so it may not affect them as much as it might if they had to travel or were on the road. The starters, other than Leonard, all played around 30 minutes, but they are a deep team and may be able to have enough in the tank to pull out a win.

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 bad calls take them out of the game.