The Celtics first road game is against the Miami Heat in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics won that 7 game series 4-3. The Celtics finished last season second in the East while the Heat finished just ahead of them in first place in the East. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season with the Celtics winning one in Boston and one in Miami and the Heat winning one game in Miami.
The Heat had a very successful preseason, winning 4 and losing only one. The Celtics beat the 76ers 126-117 in Boston on opening night while the Heat lost to the Bulls 116-108 in Miami on Wednesday. The Celtics are 78-51 all time against the Heat in the regular season and 37-29 all time in Miami. The Heat hold a 16-14 lead against the Celtics in the playoffs.
This is the first of 4 regular season games and the Celtics first road game. They play in Boston on November 30 and December 2 and they play on January 24 once again in Miami. This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics and they will travel to Orlando for the second game of the back to back on Saturday.
The Celtics should have an advantage with their depth. The Heat have basically stood pat since last season and even lost one of their key players when PJ Tucker signed with Philadelphia. The Celtics key addition of Malcolm Brogdon gives their second unit a huge boost. Noah Vonleh and Blake Griffin also give the Celtics a little more depth than they had last season. The Celtics should have an advantage when their second unit comes in.
I’ve included the same starting lineups that both teams used in their last game. Either coach could chose to change his lineup, especially this early in the season. The Celtics are once again without Robert Williams (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (knee). The Heat have listed Victor Oladipo (knee) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle) as out for this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Heat Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Tyler Herro
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Caleb Martin
C: Bam Adebayo
2 Way Players
Omer Yurtseven (ankle) out
Victor Oladipo (knee) out
Jaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler
Butler is a dangerous player, who can score from anywhere on the court and is always a threat to get to the basket. In his first game he had 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He shot 45.5% from the field but didn’t take any 3 point shots. He is a good defender and will try to make it difficult for Jaylen to score. Jaylen needs to find a way to slow Butler down and also to get his own offense going.
Derrick White vs Tyler Herro
Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year is now in the starting lineup. He had 23.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals in the Heat’s first game. He shot 53% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. He is a scorer and will have a big game if not defended well. Derrick needs to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Al Horford vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo is very tough inside and the Celtics have struggled to defend him in the past. He had 12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block in the Heats first game against the Bulls. He shot 33% from the field and did not attempt a 3 pointer. He will likely look to have a big game in this one since he struggled somewhat in his first game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the biggest key to winning every game. Both of these teams play tough physical defense. The Celtics need to play team defense and they have to make defense a priority. They have to show urgency and aggressiveness on defense. After the first game, they are 24th with a defensive rating of 119.4 while the Heat are 19th with a defensive rating of 110.5. The Celtics must get back to making defense their identity.
Rebound - As with defense, rebounding will always be a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to grab rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of the game as well. The Heat pulled down 46 rebounds in their first game while the Celtics pulled down 36 rebounds. The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Heat.
Take Care of the Ball - When the Celtics turn the ball over a lot they usually lose and when they don’t turn the ball over they usually win. It’s as simple as that. The Celtics must limit their turnovers in this game as they did in their first game, turning the ball over just 11 times. They have to make crisp passes and be aware of the defenders who are very good at getting into the passing lanes. They have to be careful when handling the ball and not dribble into a crowd and not get sloppy with the ball.
Urgency and Effort - These are keys to winning most games. If they play with urgency and put out extra effort, they have a good chance of winning the game. The Heat often win their games by playing harder than their opponents more than by having more talent. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder and is more aggressive and plays with more urgency. They can’t expect to win because they did last season.
Play with Pace - One of the biggest changes from last season is that the Celtics have been pushing the ball and playing with a faster pace than they have in past seasons. They need to keep running and pushing the ball quickly up the court. They need to keep the ball moving and not get bogged down with iso play and players walking up the court.
On the Road - The Celtics are on the road for their first game away from TD Garden this season. They need to get past the distractions of travel and being away from their homes and families and they have to keep from being rattled by the hostile crowd. Heat fans will want revenge for the ECF loss and will likely be very vocal.
Coaching - The Heat have a top 10 coach, who has been with the Heat since 1997 and has been their head coach since 2008. He has 660 NBA wins. The Celtics’ coach was just thrown into the head coaching spot weeks ago and just got his first NBA win. Joe Mazzulla out-coached Doc Rivers in his first game. Can he do it again in this one?
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. At times the officials have an agenda of some sort. This season, it seems as though they have no patience for players complaining and have been calling techs very quickly for it. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls and no calls take them out of the game or affect their focus. Most of all, the Celtics have to stop complaining after every call instead of getting back on defense. Focus on playing the game and not on the officials.