Arbella Game Preview: Game 4 - Heat at Celtics

Arbella

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics took care of business during Saturday night’s Game 3, and they’ll need to do so again during tonight’s Game 4 in order to avoid the brink of elimination.

The Celtics, who trailed the series 2-0 to Miami heading into Saturday’s action, dominated the Heat in Game 3 en route to a 97-81 victory. Completing a similar performance at 7 p.m. tonight in Game 4 would help Boston pull even in the series as it shifts back to Miami for Wednesday’s Game 5.

Winning tonight’s game won’t come easy, especially considering the injury bug that bit the Celtics hard on Saturday. Dwyane Wade took down Rajon Rondo when they were tangled up midway through the third quarter, and Rondo suffered a horrific dislocated left elbow on the play.

Dr. Brian McKeon, the Celtics’ team doctor, and head trainer Ed Lacerte escorted Rondo back to the locker room and it looked as if his season had quickly come to an end. Then he reappeared on the bench in the fourth quarter, sending the TD Garden crowd into hysteria.

Rondo reentered the game at the start of the fourth quarter and, while essentially playing with one arm, recorded four points, one rebound and one assist as the Celtics closed the door on Game 3. His gutsy performance lifted the Celtics, and their crowd, and allowed them to stay alive in this series.

He underwent an MRI and a CAT scan on Sunday, and both of those tests came back negative. He has been listed as a game-time decision for tonight, but you can be sure that he’ll be on the floor giving everything he has to offer.

In addition to Rondo’s injury, Delonte West also suffered a bruised left shoulder. After Game 3, Doc Rivers said that the injury may have been worse than the team originally thought, but West has felt better since Saturday night and the team passed on putting him through precautionary tests. West is not even mentioned in the team’s injury report, so that’s a good sign pertaining to how far he has come since Saturday night’s postgame.

West is, however, left-handed, which means that his shot could be affected by the injury. He shot 4-of-5 in the first half of Saturday’s game prior to the injury, and then went 0-for-2 in the second half.

The performances of those two dinged up Celtics will be critical to this game, and so will those of Miami’s Big Three. When the Heat put this team together, they knew that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would have to carry them this season, and they’ve done so for the majority of the year. Two of those players, however, seemingly left their talents in South Beach when the team flew north for Game 3.

James had a minimal impact on Saturday’s game and finished with only 15 points, which is less than half of what he accounted for in Game 2 alone. Alongside him, Bosh tallied pedestrian numbers of six points and five rebounds. Those two combined to shoot just 7-of-26 from the floor.

At Sunday’s media availability, Bosh publicly commented that the crowd and atmosphere in the TD Garden took him aback, and that it affected his game dramatically.

"Given all the elements that were out there last night ... they were so hyped," Bosh said, according to ESPN.com. "My emotions got the best of me early on and it kind of dictated what I was doing for the rest of the game."

He made it clear that those elements included the Celtics’ ferocious play as well as the “hostile environment” that the Garden crowd brought to the table. Those elements aren’t likely to disappear in Game 4, so Bosh’s play could be impacted yet again.

As Bosh alluded to, the Celtics and their crowd brought it on Saturday night. The arena was pumped with energy far before tip off, and Boston’s players brought their energy on the court from the very first possession of the game.

It’s difficult to beat the C’s when those elements are present, and they proved that with their blowout victory in Game 3. If those wearing green and white in the Garden tonight bring a similar energy from start to finish, this series could turn into a best-of-three as the two teams head back to Miami.

Rondo and West’s Abilities

There is no way to overstate the importance of Rondo and West’s ability to perform well tonight. The one position where the Celtics have drastically outplayed the Heat thus far in the series is point guard, and that’s the position these two players handle for Boston.

It’s nearly a guarantee that both Rondo and West will be active and participating in tonight’s game, but what type of impact will they provide?

Rondo played with one arm during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, and his left-handed dribbles could probably be counted on one hand. That won’t suffice in Game 4. Miami has had 48 hours to game plan for an injured Rondo, and you can be sure that the Heat will be forcing him to his left on nearly every possession of the game.

For West, the only serious question is if he’ll be able to shoot the ball effectively despite his bruised shoulder. He showed no ill effects in terms of passing or defense during Game 3, but as we detailed earlier, his shot and aggressiveness took a drastic decline. West made all four of his shots in Game 2, then four of his first five shots in Game 5. If he can still shoot at that rate despite the injury, the Celtics will be in great shape.

Allow Others To Beat You

Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony were the only reasons why Miami didn’t lose Game 3 in the same manner the Los Angeles Lakers were embarrassingly swept out of the playoffs on Sunday afternoon. Chalmers dropped in 17 points off of the bench on 7-of-9 shooting, and Anthony provided the Heat’s only double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Normally when two bench players can accrue such solid numbers for an opponent, it spells doom for the Celtics. In this case, however, that’s not the story.

Boston would much rather have players like Chalmers and Anthony putting up numbers instead of James and Bosh. The Heat win because of their stars, not because of their bench players. You can be guaranteed that the Celtics would much prefer Miami’s role players scoring points, as long as the Heat’s stars aren’t doing the same.

Share the Basketball

The Celtics finished Games 1 and 2 with averages of just 18 APG and 42.9 percent shooting from the floor. Those numbers are not indicative of Boston’s team-oriented offensive play, and it’s not a shocker that they dropped both of those contests.

In Game 3, the offense turned around, and it was because the ball was hopping all night long. Rondo led the game with 11 assists and the Celtics totaled 27 dimes as a whole en route to a 50.0 percent shooting night. For the third time in the series, a different Celtic led the team in scoring.

All of those statistics are what make Boston so difficult to defend. Anyone can step up to the plate and have a huge game, and on Saturday it was Kevin Garnett. He dominated Bosh and the Heat while tallying game-highs of 28 points and 18 rebounds. Paul Pierce wasn’t far behind with his 27 points, either.

When the Celtics play with balance and share the ball at the offensive end, they take their game to a higher level. The offense scores more efficiently and the defense tightens up dramatically. If the ball is shared in a similar manner tonight, you can be sure that Boston will be in this game for the long haul.