Game Preview: Celtics at Heat

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – You can watch the Boston Celtics (40-38) take on the Miami Heat (62-16) at 7:30 p.m. tonight at American Airlines Arena. Just don’t expect the matchup to pack as much star power as it typically would.

The Celtics announced on Thursday that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett traveled with the team to Miami but will not participate in tonight’s game. Both players are nursing sore left ankles. On Miami’s side, Dwyane Wade is scheduled to return after missing the last six games with right knee soreness, while LeBron James and Chris Bosh may also play after missing the Heat’s five-point win over Washington on Wednesday.

Regarding his decision to rest Pierce and Garnett, Doc Rivers said on Wednesday, “Honestly, I don’t love doing this. I really don’t enjoy it. I think everybody should play every game. I really do. But it’s not the team we have with the ages of the guys we have. You just can’t take the chance.”

Rather than risk the possibility of Pierce and Garnett dealing with ankle soreness throughout the playoffs, Rivers is doing what he can to alleviate those issues now. As a result, there are some other guys who will need to step up in their place.

Jeff Green has been the superstar sub this season when Pierce or KG have missed games. Heck, that’s how he became a starter.

Green has started 14 games this season and the majority of those games were played without either Pierce or Garnett. All Green has done is average 20.7 points per game during those contests. The biggest performance of them all came against this very same Heat team on March 18, when Green dropped 43 points, five rebounds and four assists on Miami.

Jeff Green

Jeff Green rose above every Heat player last month, as he scored a career-high 43 points on March 18.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Green could have another strong performance tonight, particularly if Miami decides to rest James. Miami’s opponents score 6.6 more points per 100 possessions while shooting better from the field and from 3-point range when James is off the court.

Those numbers indicate that someone needs to step up for Miami while James is out. Former Celtic Ray Allen filled that role Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.

Allen scored a game-high 23 points during Miami’s 103-98 win despite the fact that he shot just 1-of-7 from downtown. Allen also contributed six rebounds, four assists and three steals in one of his better all-around performances of the season.

Allen may not need to deliver numbers like that tonight since his All-Star is supposed to be back. He and his teammates can return to their customary roles if Miami is at full strength.

Boston, on the other hand, is in a much different situation. It knows that it will be playing without its two best players tonight. In order to grab a win, the C’s will need their lesser-known players to step up and deliver very strong performances.

Rusty Wade?

Wade has not played since March 29 and has only played twice since March 24. He’s been working out with the team this week in Miami, but he’s likely to have some rust when he takes the court tonight.

Wade’s season splits tell us that we should expect a less efficient offensive game from him tonight than we’d typically see. He has shot 47.2 percent from the field this season after three or more days of rest. That percentage is a substantial drop from his overall shooting percentage of 52.1 percent this season.

To add to that fact, Avery Bradley will defend Wade, and Bradley has hounded Wade well over the past couple of seasons. Wade may be back in the lineup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect a superstar performance from him.

A Big Night for Shav

Just because Shavlik Randolph isn’t projected to be in Boston’s starting lineup doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect a big game from him. He may wind up playing more than 20 minutes tonight for just the third time this season.

Randolph has proven to be Boston’s most efficient rebounder over the past few weeks. He is coming off of a game in which he grabbed a team-high nine boards in just 16 minutes of action against Brooklyn. He could very well wind up being a key contributor tonight with a double-digit rebounding performance for Boston.

Close Out on 3s

Miami takes a lot of 3-pointers as it is, ranking sixth in the league in attempts with 21.9 per game, but that number has spiked even more of late. The Heat have taken an average of 30.8 3-pointers over their last five games, including a franchise-record 41 attempts Wednesday night.

Pat Riley has constructed this Miami team to feature plenty of perimeter options. Wade and James can attack and find their teammates on the perimeter for open looks behind the 3-point line.

In order to combat that, the Celtics must keep a keen eye on the arc tonight. Boston needs to have tight rotations and close out hard on every 3-point attempt that the Heat fire up.