The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip with a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams. The Celtics have won 2 out of 3 games between them so far, winning 111-104 on 10/21 in Miami, 134-121 on November 30 in Boston and losing 120-116 on December 2 also in Boston.
The Celtics won the series with the Heat 2-1 last season and they won the Eastern Conference Finals 4-3. This is the final game of the Celtics road trip before they head home for a 4 game home stand. This is the second of 3 home games for the Heat with a game against the Magic on Friday to close out their home stand before they head out on a 4 game road trip.
This is the second of back to back games for the Celtics. They are 7-0 on the second night of back to back games overall. They are 6-0 when the second game is on the road and they are 2-0 when both the first and second games are on the road. The Celtics have won their last 3 games played in Miami.
The Celtics are still 1st in the East. They are 4 games ahead of 2nd place Philadelphia, 4.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee and 5 games ahead of 4th place Brooklyn. They are 17-8 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 20-9 against Eastern Conference opponents. They had won 9 in a row before losing to the Magic on Monday night.
The Heat are 6th in the East. They are 3 games behind 5th place Cleveland and 9 games behind 1st place Boston. They are 1 game ahead of 7th place New York and a spot in the play-in tournament. They are 5 games ahead of 11th place Toronto and out of the playoffs. They are 15-9 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 10-13 against Eastern Conference teams and are looking for their second straight win.
The Celtics will be very shorthanded in this game. Robert Williams should return to the starting lineup while Al Horford (back) will miss this game. Marcus Smart (ankle), Malcolm Brogdon (personal) and Jaylen Brown (adductor) will all miss this game as well. I’m not sure at all who will start with 3 regular starters out. I just took a wild guess so the starting lineup may be totally different from what I have listed but the Celtics don’t have many players left.
For the Heat, Nikola Jovic has not played since December 26 due to lower back pain and will miss this game. Duncan Robinson had surgery to repair a finger injury and is listed as out for this game. Finally, Omer Yurtseven is out after having surgery on his ankle.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Payton Pritchard
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Al Horford (rest) out
Malcolm Brogdon (personal) out
Jaylen Brown (adductor) 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
Nikola Jovic (back) out
Duncan Robinson (finger) out
Jayson Tatum 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. He is averaging 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. He is shooting 51.6% from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. In 2 games against Boston this season he averaged 21.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. He shot 55.3% from the field and missed both 3 pointers that he took. He is a good defender and will try to make it difficult for the Celtics to score. The Celtics need to find a way to slow Butler down.
Derrick White vs Tyler Herro
Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year is now in the starting lineup. He is averaging 20.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He is shooting 44.8% from the field and 37.3% from beyond the arc. In the 3 games against the Celtics this season, he averaged 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists. He shot 50.9% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the arc. He is a scorer and will have a big game if not defended well. The Celtics need to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Robert Williams III vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo is very tough inside and the Celtics have struggled to defend him in the past. He is averaging 21.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting 54.0% from the field and 10% from beyond the arc. In the 3 games against the Celtics this season, he averaged 23.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals. He shot 58.3% from the field and he hit the only 3 pointer he took.
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. The Celtics are 5th with a defensive rating of 110.8 while the Heat are 6th with a defensive rating of 111.0. The Celtics have to show urgency and aggressiveness on defense because the Heat certainly will.
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 41.4 rebounds (26th)while the Celtics average 44.7 rebounds (7th). The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Heat and fight for every rebound.
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. 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 this game because they won the first 3 games between them.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics must limit their turnovers in this game as the Heat are 7th with 18.6 points off turnovers per game. The Celtics 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 because if they turn the ball over it will likely be a score for the Heat.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip. 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 for the 3 losses earlier this season and will likely be very vocal.
Injuries - The Celtics had to play without Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Timelord, Derrick White and Malcolm Brodgon for periods on this road trip. They will be without Smart, Brogdon, Brown and Horford for this game. It’s hard to be consistent with players in and out of the lineup. They have to continue to have the next man up mentality and every player has to up their game to fill in for the players who are out.
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. 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.