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 in American Airlines Arena.
Does James Play?
LeBron James has been experiencing serious back pain this week that has drastically affected his performance. James played through the pain Thursday night but finished with only 18 points, five rebounds and six assists over 38 minutes of play against the Clippers.
James was asked Thursday night about what it would take for him to miss a game. He answered by saying, “I would probably have to not be able to get out of the bed.”
Chances are he’s going to be able to get out of bed on Saturday. The question is, will he feel healthy enough to play? He’s battled through the pain thus far but it could reach a point on Saturday where he needs to take a game off.
Meaty Matchup at Small Forward
There might not be anything better than watching up-and-coming stars try to outduel James. If you were watching Jeff Green do that on March 18 of last season, you’ll never forget it.
Green went off on James and the Heat, scoring a career-high 43 points while electrifying the TD Garden crowd. Not even James could stop him. Green finished the game with a 14-of-21 performance from the field while shooting 10-of-13 from the free-throw line. Less than a month later, on April 12, Green was back at it again. He dropped in 25 points and eight rebounds against James and the Heat during that contest.
Clearly, there’s something about James that brings out the best in Green. It’s nearly impossible to stop James, who is the best player in the world. But let’s hope it’s also impossible to stop Green if both players are on the court during this game.
Defend the Arc
Pat Riley had a vision when he put together this era of the Miami Heat. That vision was to surround James and Dwyane Wade with sharpshooters on the perimeter.
Riley’s plan has worked to perfection over the past two seasons. Miami has won two consecutive titles and no one has been able to figure out how to slow them down. James and Wade will attack the basket, and if defenders sag off of their men to provide help defense, the Heat’s two stars will hit the likes of Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole for 3-pointers.
Miami enters Saturday night’s matchup ranked fifth in the league in 3-point shooting. Seven of its players have hit at least 36.4 percent of their shots from downtown. Boston, on the other hand, owns the best 3-point defense in the league, limiting opponents to just 27.1 percent shooting from behind the arc. The C’s are coming off a game in which they limited the Magic, a strong 3-point shooting team, to just 4-of-20 shooting from downtown. We’re about to find out if Boston can do that again in the second night of a back-to-back.
Convert off the Glass
Friday night’s game against the Orlando Magic produced a lot of positives for the Celtics. They were great on defense, they came through in the clutch, and they attacked the glass for 50 rebounds, including nineteen offensive boards.
Those are all the positives, but there were also some negatives, namely the fact that the C’s didn’t capitalize on their second-chance opportunities.
Despite hauling in 19 offensive rebounds, Boston scored just 10 second-chance points. That’s a very poor conversion rate on its multiple opportunities.
That will need to change against Miami. The Heat are the defending champs and in order to beat them, opponents must capitalize on every given opportunity. Boston should be able to attack the glass tonight and it must take advantage of those extra opportunities.
Boston’s Big Men
This Celtics team isn’t made up of big men who typically dominate down low. It does, however, have several big men who could pose issues for a small Miami Heat team.
Only three true big men on Miami’s team play significant minutes. Chris Bosh, a thin and prototypical power forward, starts at center and plays 32 minutes a game. Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem each average 16 minutes a night.
Boston, on the other hand, relies heavily on its big men. The power forward position is one of its strengths. Three of Boston’s top six scorers are power forwards, led by Brandon Bass and his average of 13.7 PPG.
Brad Stevens may be forced to go small against the Heat for most of the game, with both Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace on the floor. However, when his big men are out there, they should have the clear advantage down low.