The Celtics will host the Miami Heat for their home opener. This will be their first meeting since the Celtics lost Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both teams won their season openers on Wednesday. The Celtics beat the Knicks 108-104 on the road while the Heat beat the Detroit Pistons 103-102 at home. This is the first of 3 meetings between these two teams this season. They will meet twice more in Miami in January 25 and again on February 11.
These two teams split the series 2-2 last season with each team winning one at home and one on the road. The Celtics are 79-53 overall all time against the Heat and 41-23 all time at home. This is the first of back to back games for the Heat and the first of a 3 game road trip that will also take them through Minnesota and Milwaukee. The Celtics don’t play again until Monday at Washington and then Wednesday back at home against Indiana before heading out on a 3 game road trip of their own.
The Celtics have changed considerably since they last played the Heat. They have added Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis. They have also added Delano Banton, Oshae Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk, Jordan Walsh and Lamar Stevens. They lost Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, Robert Williams III, and Blake Griffin. The Heat have lost key players from that Finals run with Haslem, Dedmon, Oladipo, Strus, Vincent, Zeller and Yurtseven all leaving the team. They have added only Jaquez, Bryant, and Richardson.
The Celtics once again have a clean injury report with no one on the list at this time. The Heat, as usual have a long list of players on the list, most of whom will play. Haywood Highsmith is out with an MCL sprain. Josh Richardson injured his foot in October and will also miss this game. Caleb Martin (knee), Jaime Jaquez, Jr (groin), Caleb Martin (knee) and Duncan Robinson (foot) are all listed as game time decisions but are all probable to play.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis
2 Way Players
Probable Heat Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Tyler Herro
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Kevin Love
C: Bam Adebayo
Jaime Jaquez, Jr
Haywood Highsmith (knee) out
Josh Richardson (foot) out
Jaime Jaquez, Jr (groin) probable
Caleb Martin (knee) probable
Duncan Robinson (foot) probable
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler
Butler finished the first game with 19 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. He shot 33% from the field and did not shoot a 3 pointer. He is a good defender who has made it his goal to stop Jayson Tatum in the past. Jaylen Brown had a rough first game but hopefully will play much better in this one.
Kristaps Porzingis vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo finished the first game with 22 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. He shot 53.8% from the field but did not take a 3 pointer. He is dangerous around the basket to score and to grab rebounds and needs to be boxed out and defended well. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint as well as off the boards
Derrick White vs Tyler Herro
Former Sixth Man of the Year is now in the starting lineup. He finished Wednesday’s game with 16 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists. He shot 24.2% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc. He spent the summer in trade talks for Damian Lillard but now Pat Riley claims he never talked about trading him. That may mess with his head a little. Last game aside, 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. The Celtics’ defense looked good for the most part on Wednesday. They need to make defense a priority in each and every game. The Heat have always been a good defensive team, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo who both play very good defense. The team that plays the best defense 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 Celtics were out-rebounded by 1 on Wednesday but New York had 10 more offensive rebounds. The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Heat and win the rebounding battle.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. They have to be more aggressive in going after loose balls, in grabbing rebounds, in defending, and in going to the basket. The Heat are proud of having a team of “dogs” who hustle and scrap for everything. The Celtics need to hustle and be aggressive for 48 minutes and “out-dog” the Heat. They can win a lot of games by playing harder than their opponents and they can lose a lot of games by allowing their opponents to be the team that plays harder.
Stay Focused - The Celtics have to stay focused and play as a team. Against the Knicks they kept their focus even though New York went on a run late and went up by 6 points. Last year, that likely would have been a loss but this team did not give up and kept fighting and stayed focused and pulled out the win. They will have to stay focused on playing as a team, grabbing rebounds, on taking good shots and on playing tough defense.
Bench Play - If there is one recurring concern about the Celtics, it is that they lack depth. Against the Knicks, Joe Mazzulla played 4 guys off the bench and scored just 12 points, with 8 of those coming from Al Horford. The Heat played 5 guys off the bench who gave them 33 points, with 15 of those coming from Duncan Robinson. The Celtics must get more from their reserves. This isn’t even a case of if someone gets hurt, it is a matter of getting contributions from the reserves in every game to keep the starters from burning out.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing in their home opener while the Heat are playing in their first game on the road. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd and from being on their familiar home court. Last season, the Celtics were 32-9 at home while the Heat were 17-24 on the road. The Heat 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 they are at home, however. 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 704 NBA wins and two championships as a head coach. Joe Mazzulla was thrown into the Celtics head coaching position weeks before last season. He has had an off season to prepare for this season and hopefully can hold his own against Spoelstra.
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 refs always start the season with points of emphasis and make it difficult for teams who aren’t used to those things being called. They will also be calling technical fouls on flops and that could make things more difficult as they try to differentiate between actual fouls and flops. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus from playing the game.