Winning sure does feel good! Just four losses in the first 21 games feel even better. And doing so with the best offense in the NBA is just the icing on the cake. What I love most about this current Celtics team, is how they never seem satisfied, and their focus instantly shifts to the next game.
Well, their next game is against the Miami Heat, and that’s never an easy out, so, the focus will be at a premium. Interestingly, the Heat seems to be struggling for healthy bodies heading into Wednesday’s game, although, I wouldn’t put it past them to simply be playing possum.
As things currently stand, the Heat’s injury report looks like this.
Out: Jimmy Butler (knee), Victor Oladipo (knee), Omer Yurtseven (knee).
Questionable: Dewayne Dedmon (foot), Tyler Herro (ankle), Haywood Highsmith (ankle), Nikola Jovic (foot), Caleb Martin (illness), Duncan Robinson (ankle), Gabe Vincent (knee),
Probable: Jamal Cain (illness), Max Strus (shoulder).
That’s a lot of questionable talent waiting to see if they’re going to participate. For Boston, they’re still deciding on Jaylen Brown’s status due to his continued stiff neck, so that will be something to keep an eye on.
With all that said, let’s look at my tickets to triumph for tonight’s game.
Stick to the gameplan
The Heat are master disruptors, utilizing their physicality and innovative defensive schemes to keep teams on their toes. Miami likes teams to play in the trenches, battling for possession, grinding for buckets, and falling into the trap of playing Miami Heat basketball. The Celtics can’t do that, regardless of who is and isn’t playing.
What makes Boston’s offense so tough to deal with, outside of their obvious talent, of course, is that they play the game their way. They drive the rock on their schedule, swing the ball when it suits them, and they make defenses bend to their will — there’s no compromise in how Joe Mazzulla has them operating.
If the Celtics can continue to play their brand of basketball, and rise above the randomness the Heat like to incorporate into their defense, they should be more than capable of coming away with the W.
Take away the elbows
Bam Adebayo is far more than a dribble hand-off threat these days, but that doesn’t mean he isn't the offensive hub for Miami. As we’re all aware of by now, Adebayo does most of his damage around the elbows, directing play, initiating sets, and causing havoc as a hand-off threat who can also face up and take you off the dribble or hit a pull-up jumper.
If Boston can limit Adebayo’s presence around the free-throw line extended, and force him into creating more as a short-roll guy, or on the wings, they will be nullifying one of Miami’s most prominent ways to get their guys downhill, and that will take a significant amount of wind out of their sails considering the limited on-ball creation throughout their roster.
Take em’ back to the ’90s
For those that don’t know, ‘take em’ back to the 90’s’ is the opening line on my favorite Logic song ‘Young Jesus’. But, for Wednesday’s game against Miami, the same notion rings true, because the Heat is currently 28th in the NBA for opponents' field goal percentage around the rim, giving up an astonishing 70.2%.
Given the amount of interior scoring talent on the Celtics and the fact that both Grant Williams and Sam Hauser — two of the team’s best sharpshooters — are showing a willingness to attack closeouts, Boston should have no problem pressuring the rim and putting the Heat on the back foot.
Of course, we will likely see some rip screens, wedge screens, and some 1-4 flat, too — as Mazzulla has been using those types of screening sets to get Tatum open lanes to the bucket, and against a team that struggles to be a rim deterrent, it makes sense to spam those actions like you’re losing in the final round of Tekken.
Miami is never an easy out. Erik Spoelstra is simply too good of a coach to not ensure his team is a difficult opponent, especially when facing the team that defeated you in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With all that being said, the Celtics hold the best record in the NBA for a reason, so, unless the Celtics lay a goose egg, or simply fail to rise to the occasion, this should be yet another victory on their record and we will all be drinking our morning coffee with a smile on our faces.