Watch It! - Celtics at Heat
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at American Airlines Arena.
Will Wade Play?
The biggest question heading into tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and Heat is whether or not Miami’s All-Star shooting guard, Dwyane Wade, will play. Wade has missed 11 games this season with knee soreness, including last night’s 121-114 loss to the Hawks.
Wade may be battling knee problems but he’s still one of the best in the league when he’s on the court. He’s averaging 18.9 points per game this season with strong shooting numbers to go along with 4.8 rebounds a night and 4.7 assists per game.
Miami is a different team when it does not have Wade’s abilities at its disposal. The Heat are 24-6 this season with Wade in the lineup and 5-6 without him.
Rondo’s Increased Minutes
Brad Stevens dropped a surprising note at Tuesday morning’s shootaround. He notified reporters that Rajon Rondo’s minutes restriction has already increased from 18-20 minutes to 20-25 minutes.
That’s great news for both Rondo and the Celtics. Rondo was already beginning to show frustrations with his five-minutes-per-quarter schedule, at one point telling Stevens, “Not now,” when the coach tried to sub him out during Sunday’s game in Orlando. Now Stevens can increase Rondo’s minutes by up to 25 percent, which should make the point guard much happier.
Boston should be happy that Rondo will be on the court for more minutes as well. The C’s are clearly a better team with him on the floor. He runs the defense with his communication and also runs the offense with his vision and passing.
Convert on 3-Pointers
One of the keys to beating the Heat is excelling from beyond the 3-point range. Miami is very poor at defending the 3-point line, ranking 25th in the league, due in large part to how successful opponents have been at converting on 3s while knocking the Heat off.
Opponents have shot an incredible 41.7 percent from long range during Miami’s 12 losses this season. That’s a considerable jump from a 35 percent conversion rate during Miami’s 29 victories.
Boston is not an elite 3-point shooting team. It ranks just 28th in the league in 3-point shoot percentage. It does, however, have a couple of guys who can get hot from downtown. The C’s will need Avery Bradley (36.5 percent) and Jeff Green (36.8 percent) to lead the way.
Bayless is Out
The Celtics are going to be short-handed at the guard positions tonight due to the absence of Jerryd Bayless. Bayless has been ruled out with a sprained left big toe.
The absence of Bayless looms as a large one for the Celtics. He is one of just four guards who are with the team right now, which means they’ll have only three guards available for tonight’s game. Two of those guards, Rondo and Phil Pressey, are regarded as below-average shooters. Winning with that rotation will be a great challenge for the Celtics tonight.
Take Care of the Ball
Every coach in the league will tell you that one of the keys to beating the Heat is taking care of the ball. Miami possesses elite athleticism, led by LeBron James, and they will convert on fast break attempts more often than not.
Fortunately for Boston, turning the ball over hasn’t been an issue for them this season. The C’s are right in the middle of the pack this season in turnovers, ranking 14th in the league with an average of 14.4 per game. They have been elite of late, committing just 12.9 turnovers a night over their last 10 games. There’s no doubt that they’d love to continue that trend in this game.