The Celtics host the Miami Heat for the second time in the last 3 days. This is the final game of a 6 game home stand for the Celtics and the 3rd of a 4 game road trip for the Heat. This is the 3rd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 111-104 in Miami. They won 134-121 on Wednesday in a hard fought game at home. They will play the final game of the series on January 24 in Miami.
The Celtics are 1st in the East, 2 games ahead of the second place Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics are 11-1 at home and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 5 game and have won 10 straight at home. The Heat are in 11th place in the East. They are 8 games behind the Celtics in the standings and 5.5 games ahead of last place. They are 2-8 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Jaylen Brown had been questionable with a neck injury on Wednesday but played in that game and should play in this game as well. Robert Williams is getting closer to a return to the team. He has been seen scrimmaging and dunking at practice but the Celtics are being cautious with him. He is still expected back by Christmas. Danilo Gallinari will miss most, if not all, of this season with the ACL tear.
The Heat had 12 players on their injury list on Wednesday, but 5 of those questionable players played in that game. Jimmy Butler missed Wednesday’s game and is questionable for this game but is expected to play. His official status will be a game time decision. Victor Oladipo (knee) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle) are out. Jovic (foot), Dedmon (foot), and Butler are listed as questionable. Highsmith, Vincent, Robinson, Strus, and Herro are all listed as probable. All will be a game time decision.
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
Jimmy Butler (knee) questionable
Dewayne Dedmon (foot) questionable
Haywood Highsmith (ankle) probable
Nikola Jovic (foot) questionable
Duncan Robinson (ankle) probable
Gabe Vincent (knee) probable
Max Strus (shoulder) probable
Tyler Herro (ankle) probable
Al Horford vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo is averaging 20.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 53.0% from the field and 11.1% from beyond the arc (1-9 on the season). He finished Wednesday’s game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He is dangerous around the basket to score and to grab rebounds and seemed to get to the hoop at will on Wednesday. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint as well as off the boards.
Jaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler
Butler was not with the team on Wednesday and is questionable for this game but everything was pointing to him playing in this game. He is averaging 20.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He is shooting 48.3% from the field and 35.5% from beyond the arc. More importantly, he is a good defender who has limited Jayson Tatum in the past. If he doesn’t play, Max Strus will likely get the start once again.
Derrick White vs Tyler Herro
Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year is now in the starting lineup. He is averaging 18.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. He is shooting 43.3% from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc. He finished Wednesday’s game with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists. 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.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the biggest key to winning every game. There was very little defense played by either team on Wednesday. The Heat shot 52.2% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc, while the Celtics shot 55.4% from the field and 48.9% from beyond the arc. The Celtics are 20th with a defensive rating of 112.4 while the Heat are 12th with a defensive rating of 111.4. Both teams had their defensive rating drop after Wednesday’s game. The Celtics need to play team defense and they have to make defense a priority. The team that gets back to their defensive roots will likely get the win in this one.
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 average 41.2 rebounds per game (26th) while the Celtics average 41.7 rebounds per game (25th). On Wednesday, the Celtics out rebounded the Heat 41-32 and that was one of the factors in their win. The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Heat and win the rebounding battle once again.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics average 13.3 turnovers, which is 3rd in the league but they still have periods when they turn the ball over too much. They turned the ball over 17 times against the Heat on Wednesday. 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. The Heat average 19.2 points off turnovers per game and so if the Celtics get sloppy, the Heat will make them pay.
Urgency and Effort - These are the keys to winning this game. If they play with urgency and put out the extra effort, especially on defense, they have a good chance of winning the game. It would be easy to let up and think that they have won the last 2 games against the Heat. The Heat win their games by playing harder than their opponents more than by having more talent. We saw this when they stayed close to the Celtics throughout the game on Wednesday. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder and is more aggressive and plays with more urgency.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing in their sixth straight home game while the Heat are playing in their third straight game on the road. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd and from being on their familiar home court. The Heat are 2-8 on the road and have to deal with all the distractions that come with travel, staying in hotels away from family, and playing in front of a hostile crowd. The Celtics can’t assume that they will win because the Heat have struggled on the road. They have to play hard and defend their home court.
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 670 NBA wins and two championships as a head coach. The Celtics’ coach was just thrown into the head coaching spot weeks before the season and is coaching in his first season with 18 wins. However, he was chosen as the Coach of the Month for November. Joe Mazzulla out-coached Spoelstra in their first two meetings. Can he do it again in this one?
Revenge and Focus - The Heat lost to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They then lost the first two games against the Celtics this season. They are going to be looking to win this one to reclaim their pride and show their “culture” is better than the Celtics. The Celtics have to come into the game playing as if they are the ones who have been losing and not come in thinking it will be an easy win because of the injury list for the Heat and because they just beat them. They have to be ready for the Heat’s best effort and counter it with their own.
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. Focus on playing the game and not on the officials.