Arbella Game 4 Preview: Heat at Celtics

Arbella Playoffs

BOSTON – According to Kevin Garnett, “The Jungle was rockin’,“ for Friday night’s Game 3. We can only imagine how much it will be rocking when the ball goes up for Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. tonight.

The Boston faithful helped push their Celtics (9-7) over the top Friday night, as the C’s defeated the Miami Heat (10-4) 101-91 in Game 3. That victory has put Boston in position to tie the series up at 2-2 if it can come out on top again tonight.

Although the Celtics were ahead by as many as 24 points in Game 3, Doc Rivers is holding onto the fact that his team still has not played its best basketball. After all, Miami did shoot 49.4 percent from the field during Game 3 and scored 46 points in the paint.

“In the first quarter I thought we were poor defensively. And in the fourth quarter we were poor defensively,” said Rivers on Saturday. “So that's the point I'm making. I mean, we played well, but there's a better game in us. And we know it.”

Rivers and his players are happy with the fact that they pulled out a critical win Friday night, but they are nowhere near satisfied. A lot of work remains to be done, and the next step of that work arrives tonight.

“We've won one game. No reason to pat ourselves on the back for it,” Rivers said. “We did what we were supposed to do and what we expected to do. And now we have to do it again.”

When Boston was in the exact same position a year ago, after falling behind 0-2 to the Heat and then winning at home in Game 3, it failed to knock Miami off again in Game 4. Many reporters asked Rivers and his players about what they could take from that game and apply to this year’s situation. The overriding answer from the C’s was essentially, “Nothing.”

The Celtics believe that they and the Heat are different teams this year, so last year’s series is no indication of what this year’s squad is capable of. It’s clear that this group is confident that it will avoid the same result as Game 4 of last season’s playoff run.

Rivers said that after his team gave away Game 2, its confidence was even higher than it was coming into the series. Most people didn’t believe him.

Now the coach is preaching that his team hasn’t played its best ball and doesn’t care what happened a year ago. Let’s hope no one believes him again, and that the Celtics can prove them all wrong for the second consecutive game.

Bring the Consistency

When was the last time the Celtics won consecutive games? How about all the way back on May 10 and 12, when they finished off the Hawks in Game 6 and then defeated the Sixers in Game 1?

That’s a long time ago, particularly in the NBA Playoffs. The Celtics understand that they have been struggling to play with consistency, and that will be a point of emphasis as they head into Game 4.

“We just want to be consistent in how we play,” Pierce said before touching on the 2011 playoff series with the Heat. “Last year was last year. It's over with. We don't want a repeat of that. So we have to be consistent in everything we're trying to do.”

Playing at a consistent level to that of Game 3 won’t guarantee a victory for the Celtics, but it will guarantee that they’ll be competitive. All you can ask for in this situation is to give yourself a chance to win, and that’s what Boston’s players will do if they can bring it for a second straight game.

Stay out of Foul Trouble

This one is especially aimed toward Pierce. Pierce actually fouled out of Game 2 at the most pivotal stage of the game, as the C’s were forced to play without him for the entire overtime period. He only picked up three fouls during Game 3 but could have easily been sent into foul trouble had a couple of 50-50 calls gone against him. Rivers wants his captain to avoid any foul trouble because he believes Pierce is a completely different player when he’s able to be aggressive.

“Fouls affect an offensive player just as much as it does on defense,” said Rivers. “You don't want to drive anymore. You're worried about offensive fouls. It takes you out of your game. I thought the fact that Paul had low fouls (in Game 3) allowed him to be very aggressive.”

Boston cannot afford to have Pierce, or anyone else for that matter, fall into foul trouble tonight. Rivers needs his full arsenal of players, and needs all of them to be able to display a heightened level of aggressiveness.

Find the Right Matchup

Miami has athletes stacked up and down its roster. Those guys can run, jump and slide with any team in the league. That’s why Erik Spoelstra has opted to allow his players to switch on almost every pick-and-roll in this series.

And that’s why Rivers believes his team has an advantage.

“We want to post all of them,” Rivers said of mismatches after switches. “That's one of the points we made before the game and in film in the morning. Not just Kevin. If they keep switching, wherever they switch, let the ball find them. And we want to post anybody, any mismatch we have, instead of trying to take advantage with the dribble where they can sink and help. Throw it in and then see how they react.”

That decision has clearly worked to Boston’s advantage. It has scored more than 100 points in two consecutive games and shot the ball effectively in both of those contests. As the old saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it – find those mismatches in Game 4.