The Celtics and Heat meet for the second time this season and the first time at the TD Garden. The Celtics played the Heat in the 4th game of their 4 game road trip on January 6th. They will likely play at least one more time in the second half of the season but that schedule has not been released as yet.
It was announced on Saturday that Jayson Tatum tested positive for Covid and will be out for the next 10-14 days. Semi Ojeleye, Jaylen Brown, and Javonte Green are also questionable for this game due to contact tracing. Grant Williams, Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams were already out due to contact tracing. With Kemba Walker (knee) and Romeo Langford (wrist) also out, that leaves the Celtics extremely short handed.
I’m not sure how the league does their contact tracing, but this entire team has been in very close proximity to Jayson as they played the game vs the Wizards. Bradley Beal was out on Saturday because he was seen talking to Jayson after Friday’s game. But, both teams were up close and personal during the entire game so I’m not sure how they determine who to quarantine and who to allow to play.
All that being said, I’m not sure if this game will be played or not. With everyone out, that leaves the Celtics with 8 available players, including 6 guards (with 2 under 6 ft) and 2 bigs. The Heat will be missing Avery Bradley (covid) while Goran Dragic (knee), Meyers Leonard (shoulder), and Kelly Olynyk (groin) are all questionable.
Looking at the players available to play, there really aren’t a lot of options. I took a guess that Brad would start Teague, Edwards, Smart, Theis and Tacko but I’m probably wrong so don’t take the listed starters as fact. Brad may get daring and start Nesmith rather than Edwards. The 76ers played on Saturday with just 7 available players, so it’s not just the Celtics who are being affected by injuries and the health and safety protocols but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Possible Celtics Starters
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Carsen Edwards
SF: Marcus Smart
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tacko Fall
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Grant Williams (covid) out
Robert Williams (covid) out
Jayson Tatum (covid) out
Jaylen Brown (covid) out
Javonte Green (covid) out
Semi Ojeleye (covid) out
Probable Heat Starters
PG: Tyler Herro
SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Kelly Olynyk
C: Bam Adebayo
Avery Bradley (covid) out
Goran Dragic (knee) questionable
Meyers Leonard (shoulder) questionable
Kelly Olynyk (groin) questionable
Gabe Vincent (knee) probable
Tacko Fall vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo has been Miami’s best player so far this season. He is averaging 18.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. In the first game between these two teams, the Celtics held him to 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. With only 2 bigs available, I would think that Tacko starts by default but who knows what creative lineup Brad will come up with.
Marcus Smart vs Jimmy Butler
Butler is averaging 13.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. In his first game against the Celtics, Butler put up 26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. He always seems to show up against the Celtics.
Carsen Edwards vs Duncan Robinson
Robinson is averaging 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists. In their first meeting, Robinson got hot from the perimeter and put up 16 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Again, depending on who Brad decides to start, this may be Edwards, Smart or even Pritchard against Robinson.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have struggled on the defensive end so far this season at times but have also shown flashes of playing good defense at other times. The Celtics must get back to making defense a priority, especially against a dangerous team like the Heat. However, when you are as short handed as the Celtics are, defense will likely suffer.
Rebound - The Celtics have to crash the boards to keep the Heat from getting second chance points on the one end and to give themselves extra possessions on the other end. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics have to put out the extra effort to beat the Heat on the boards. With so many player out, rebounding is going to be even harder for the Celtics so they will have to work extra hard to crash the boards.
Move the Ball Carefully - 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 but they have to make careful passes and avoid careless turnovers.
Fatigue - The Celtics will be short handed and some players may have to play big minutes. On the other hand, the Heat are close to full strength but are playing on the second night of back to back games, with both games on the road. Which team will have more stamina to finish out the game?
Injuries/Covid - The Heat are close to full strength while the Celtics are going to be very short handed. The best we can probably hope for is that the Heat will be tired from playing the Wizards and traveling the night before and that they will underestimate the depleted Celtics.
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. With Scott Foster calling the game, you never know what to expect. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls take them out of the game. Hopefully the refs will take pity on the short handed Celtics and give them the benefit of the whistle.