Boston Celtics at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Dwyane Wade
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Boston Celtics Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: How were the HEAT able to nearly complete a comeback in Boston?

Couper Moorhead: Just hitting some shots helped as Miami went 2-of-13 from three in the first half to a marginal but much-improved 8-of-24 in the second, but it was still, as you should expect by now, all about Miami’s defense. While the zone did give up a fair number of open looks from three it also created a number of turnovers when the Celtics tried to attack off the dribble, turnovers which led to the always-crucial open-floor points on the other end. Boston has a ton of shotmakers and ultimately stayed ahead thanks to all the threes they managed to hit (17-of-40 overall), but the paint was shut down for most of the second half. The HEAT did everything they needed to do for three quarters, but the first quarter hole was a little too much to overcome.

Of course Goran Dragić was fairly incredible, playing a huge part in turning steals into points and hitting those standstill threes that have increasingly become a larger part of his repertoire.

Joe Beguiristain: After starting off the game rather slowly, the HEAT picked up some steam near the end of the second quarter and carried over their sharp play into the second half. As for who spearheaded the run, look no further than Goran Dragić.

Not only did the Slovenian score 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting after halftime thanks to a mix of finishes in transition and catch-and-shoot treys, but he also emptied the tank on the defensive end with 10 contested shots, a team-high five deflections, a team-high five steals and a team-high three recovered loose balls on the night.

That’s a lot of team highs.

All told, Miami held Boston to just 36.2 percent shooting after the break and forced the team to commit 10 turnovers during that span.

We’ll see what happens this time around.

Bam Adebayo2: What do you think is most likely to carry over from Monday’s section of this home-and-home?

Couper: It’s tough to see Miami shooting so poorly and Boston shooting so well just two days later, but you never know. Those threes will fall how they’ll fall. What’s more important as far as consistency is that the HEAT were able to lock down the paint on both ends for long stretches of the game. Boston probably won’t commit the same turnovers they did just sort of driving into multiple defenders, but the HEAT can still limit penetration with the same level of help activity clogging the lanes.

On the other end, attacking Boston’s defense through the ground can get you into a fair bit of trouble but it’s been clear this season that even against their healthy frontcourt you can still beat the Celtics through the air if you execute with precision. The HEAT may not have been getting direct drives to the rim, but they were keeping their dribble alive long enough to get paint defenders either in size mismatches or caught in between two spots, giving guards a gap to send lobs to Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside over and over as Al Horford and Aron Baynes, very good defenders, don’t typically have the length and leaping ability to contest perfectly placed lobs.

Joe: I’ll be interested to see if the HEAT can find success in the paint like they did on Monday.

With Dwyane Wade and Dragić utilizing screens well (Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside combined to tally nine screen assists for 20 points) and Adebayo crushing home alley-oops, Miami racked up 56 points in the paint. What’s more, the HEAT shot 59.1 percent on drives to the basket against the Celtics.

And while it’s hard to predict whether or not Miami will put up numbers like that again, the team is among the league leaders in attacking the basket.

It’s go time.

3: What are Wednesday night’s playoff implications?

Couper: The bad news Monday night was that the HEAT lost. The good news was that so did everyone else. Nothing effectively changed in the standings as everyone remained grouped up within a game of each other. The main negative was the opportunity cost of not gaining ground while others were falling back, but a stalemate is a far more preferable option to losing control of your own destiny. Every game from here on out is extremely high leverage.

Joe: As Coup mentioned above, nothing changed from Monday night. Miami is still a half game up on Orlando for the No. 8 seed and just a game behind Detroit for No. 6.

Looking at Wednesday’s slate of games, the Pistons play the Pacers at home, the Magic host the Knicks in Orlando, the Nets face off against the Raptors in Brooklyn and the Hornets are in New Orleans to take on the Pelicans.

But as I always say, the HEAT just need to take care of their own business if they want to make the postseason.

Celtics at HEAT Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have dropped two of their last three to the Celtics, including a 110-105 loss on Monday.
  • Miami has won six of nine and is 38-39, while Boston has won three of four and enters the contest at 46-32.
  • This is just the second time that the HEAT and Celtics will face off in consecutive games during the regular season.
  • Kyrie Irving leads Boston in points (24.0) and assists (7.0) per game.
  • Derrick Jones Jr. (Right Knee Bone Bruise) is out, while Josh Richardson (Left Heel Bruise), Justise Winslow (Right Thigh Bruise) and Rodney McGruder (Left Knee Soreness) are questionable.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 106.9 (26)
  • HEAT Defense: 107.1 (T-6)
  • Celtics Offense: 111.2 (10)
  • Celtics Defense: 107.1 (T-6)

For live in-game updates of Wednesday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.

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