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Game#17/82: C’s (12-4) @ Heat (9-6)

 

82992304VB013_CELTICS_HEATOffensive Efficiency:

Boston: 109.2 points/100 possessions (7th)

Miami: 105.5 points/100 possessions (17th)

Defensive Efficiency:

Boston: 99.8 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)

Miami:  104.6 points allowed/100 possessions (12th)

Thumbnail: The C’s face a solid home team to start a stretch in which they play six of seven games on the road.

Probable Miami starters: Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O’Neal, Mario Chalmers, James Jones/Quentin Richardson

WHAT THE HEAT DO WELL

*Have Dwyane Wade
 
 
*Take care of the ball. The Wade-era Heat are consistently among the best teams in the NBA at avoiding turnovers. This isn’t just a function of their ultra-slow pace of play; their turnovers-per-possession are always very, very low. They rank 10th in that category this season, which represents a pretty significant drop for them; the Heat ranked 4th last season. Still—this game is a fun clash between a team that values the basketball (Miami) and the team that forces turnovers more often than anyone else in the league (Boston).
 
 * Getting to the line. Only seven teams get there more often, per shot attempt, than Miami. I think we all know why this is—Dwyane Wade and his super-fantastic 11 foul shots per game. The C’s held the league’s other 10-plus free throw attempts per game guy (Chris Bosh) to just two FTAs on Friday. Can they do the same to Wade?
 
The defensive assignment will go (mostly) to Ray Allen—assuming Ray plays, given his son’s health—though obviously the C’s will help aggressively on screen/rolls in order to force Wade away from the hoop. They may even use a big man to trap Wade and force him to swing the ball to someone else.
 
 WHAT THE HEAT DO POORLY
 
 * Stastically, almost nothing. The Heat rank between #8 and #22 in all eight Four Factors categories (four on offense, four on defense). They’re #17 in three-point accuracy on offense and #11 on defense.
The Heat are an interesting contrast with teams that win because they commit themselves to greatness in a few categories and accept that they will be mediocre or even toward the bottom of the league in other Four Factors categories (This group of teams would include this year’s Celtics, the Spurs of recent vintage and the Suns of the Mike D’Antoni era). Again, in the NBA, there are lots of way to succeed.
 
 * Win at home. The Heat are just 6-4 in Miami so far this year, but they were among 15 teams that won at least two-thirds (.667) of their home games last season. Beating such a team in their place is as tough a win to earn as there is in the NBA.
 
 PLAYER WHO MAKES ME WORRY
 
* Umm…Wade. And he’ s due.
Wade is in the middle of a bad shooting slump. In his last six games, Wade is 46-of-123 (37 percent) from the floor. That includes a gross 12-of-41 (29 percent) in his last two games. You know this is going to turn around. You just hope to get your game against Miami the hell over with before it happens. Let’s just move on.
 
 * Michael Beasley. The Beas’s numbers haven’t improved so far in his second season, but the Heat have shifted him to power forward, meaning KG will have to deal with another quick athlete with range tonight. Al Harrington gave KG lots of problems in New York, and though Beasley lacks three-point range (he’s taking twice as many threes per game this season even though he’s hitting  just 20 percent of them), he’s most comfortable starting his offensive moves on the perimeter. This will be a tough assignment for KG and an impossible one for Shelden Williams.
 
 
PLAYER/S WHO DO NOT WORRY ME
 
 * The small forward spot. The Miami Herald is reporting that Quentin Richardson is set to return to the Heat line-up tonight after missing four games with back spasms. Whether he will return to the starting unit is unclear. Either way, it’s good news for the Heat, since James Jones (9.1 PER, 41 percent shooting, little of anything else) hasn’t exactly lit it up in Q’s place. And, strangely, the Heat are playing much better defense with Q-Rich on the floor, according to 82games. The Richardson-Beasley-Wade-Mario Chalmers-Jermaine O’Neal line-up has been one of the very best in the NBA by almost any measure.
 
 *The bench. Beyond Udonis Haslem, it’s pretty unproductive. Daequan Cook, the team’s designated off-the-bench sharp-shooter, is shooting 30 percent so far this season.
 
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM THE C’S
 
 * A coherent defensive strategy for Wade. There may not be a player in the league with a greater offensive burden than Wade (only LeBron James and Chris Paul are really even in the discussion). The C’s last season constructed a very effective anti-Joe Johnson defense against the Hawks, back when you really could at least slow down Atlanta simply by slowing down Johnson. Trying to contain a perimeter-oriented superstar who dominates the ball is always a good rehearsal for the playoffs, when guys like Wade, Johnson and LBJ are going to dominate the ball even more.
 
 
* Take care of the ball. Wade and Chalmers are among the most aggressive ball-hawks in the league. Keep those dribbles tight and those passes crisp, please.
 
 
* Prediction: This should be a competitive game, but the C’s overall talent advantage should overcome Wade and home court. C’s 97, Miami 91.
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