The Celtics move down the state of Florida after a 92-79 win on Wednesday in Orlando to take on the Miami Heat. This is the first of 3 games this season. They will meet again on January 31 and March 30 with both games in Boston. The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games and are 1-0 playing back to back games this season with that win coming in Charlotte.
The Heat come into this game on a 5 game win streak. They are 3-0 at home. The Heat are not just winning games but they are winning by large margins. The Celtics are 3-2 on the road and had a 3 game losing streak before the win in Orlando on Wednesday. The Heat won the series against the Celtics 2 games to 1 last season. The Celtics and Heat played one game in the preseason with the Heat coming out on top 121-100. That game was without Jaylen Brown and Al Horford, who were out with Covid.
In Wednesday’s game against the Magic, Al Horford once again came up big for the Celtics with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 26 minutes. The other 4 starters played 30 or more minutes but they are younger and hopefully will have enough energy to play hard in this game. Jaylen Brown had an efficient 28 points while Jayson Tatum once again struggled with his shot. But, a solid win against the Magic will hopefully give the team some momentum going into this game.
The Celtics once again have no players on the injury list. For the Heat, Victor Oladipo tore his quadriceps tendon in 2018-19 and hasn’t been 100% since then. He has not been cleared for full contact yet this season and should remain out through at least the first half of November. Former Celtic Max Strus is out with a knee sprain. KZ Okpala is questionable with an ankle injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Probable Heat Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Bam Adebayo
Victor Oladipo (quad) out
Max Strus (knee) out
KZ Okpala (ankle) questionable
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Jimmy Butler
Butler has been playing great for Miami and is averaging 25.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.9 steals per game. He is shooting 51.3% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. He is also playing solid defense and will be a problem for the Celtics on both ends of the court. Tatum struggled once again against the Magic, shooting just 25% from the field and 16.7% on threes. This would be a good game for him to come up big for the Celtics on offense and on defense.
Robert Williams III vs Bam Adebayo Adebayo is averaging 20.8 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He is shooting 51.1% from the field. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint as well as off the boards. He is also a mid range threat but not a perimeter threat as he hasn’t attempted a 3 pointer this season.
Dennis Schroder vs Tyler Herro
Herro comes off the bench for the Heat and makes a big impact. He is averaging 22.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. He is shooting 47.2% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. The Celtics can’t let up when the Heat’s bench comes in because Herro is a tough cover and leads a high scoring bench unit.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the first and foremost key to the game and even more so in this game because the Heat have the top defense in the league with a defensive rating of 95.1. The Celtics are 27th with a defensive rating of 110.3. It’s no surprise that the Heat have the best record in the East. The Celtics must make defense a priority, even than offense. Their collapse against the Bulls was as much that they allowed the Bulls to score 39 points in that last quarter as it was that they only scored 11. The Celtics must improve their defense if they want to get back on track.
Rebound - As with defense, rebounding will always be a key to winning. Teams need to ball to score and rebounding gives them extra possessions and also keeps their opponents from getting those possessions. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to grab rebounds, it usually tranlates to other areas of the game as well. The Celtics didn’t get any defensive rebounds in the 4th quarter against the Bulls and it allowed them to win the game.
Bench Play - The Heat bench has outscored opponents in each of their 7 games so far. Their bench averages 47.2 points per game, which is the highest average in the league. Tyler Herro is a big reason for their bench success as he is averaging 22.4 points per game. The Celtics reserves need to play hard and not allow the Heat’s bench to out-play them.
Play Hard for 48 minutes - The Heat play hard. They all give maximum effort for the entire game and they have been winning games by large margins. The Celtics must come out strong on both ends of the court and they need to play hard for all 48 minutes until the final buzzer. Against the Heat, they can’t afford to let up for a quarter or to allow the Heat to play harder than them for any length of time or they will get blown out.
Back to Back on the Road - The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Heat last played on Tuesday and had a Wednesday off. Also the Celtics are on the road and they need to stay focused and not allow the distractions of playing on the road and a hostile crowd to affect their play. Hopefully fatigue won’t affect the Celtics down the stretch.
Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor because like Forrest Gump’s box of candy, you never know what you are going to get. Some crews call the game tight and some let them play. Some favor the home game and others call it down the middle. This season, the officiating is even more of an X-Factor since they are calling the games differently and not allowing offensive players to draw fouls that they could last season. The players need to get used to the way the games are being called and play through non calls and not miss plays complaining about them.