In preparation for tonight’s game, Kevin Arnovitz of the ESPN/TrueHoop Network’s Heat Index answers a few of questions regarding tonight’s epic showdown:
Celtics Hub: The Heat’s biggest perceived weakness is at the center position. Shaquille O’Neal’s biggest weakness is defending the pick and roll, especially against quick/athletic players. Which team do you think is in better position to exploit the other in the middle?
Kevin Arnovitz: Figure that O’Neal will be guarding Joel Anthony. Since the Heat don’t figure to use Anthony in that capacity, Shaq should be okay. Most of the pick-and-rolls from the Heat will come from the 2, 3 and 4 slots. Anthony is going to surprise a lot of people defensively. Though he’s not super-physical, he’s quick and disruptive. That’s not to say the Celtics shouldn’t feed O’Neal occasionally, but I think most of the offense in this game will originate from the foul line extended and beyond.
CH: How badly will injuries hurt the Heat tomorrow? Not only Mike Miller’s broken finger but also Dwyane Wade’s tender hamstring?
Kevin Arnovitz: “The Heat and Wade have been very conservative with his recovery, but Wade said on Monday he wouldn’t be “1,000 percent,” so there may be some residual effect there. Miller’s absence gives Erik Spoelstra less versatility. Miller could function not only as a gunslinger who can space the floor, but he also has the ability to serve as the de facto point guard down the stretch and in a powerhouse offensive lineup with LeBron James, Wade, Chris Bosh. Without Miller, Eddie House becomes the sharpshooter-who-can-tread-water-with-the-ball, but that’s a downgrade for Miami.”
CH: How deep will Erik Spolestra dip into his bench tonight and does that even matter?
Kevin Arnovitz: “If it’s a tight game at the start of the 4th on Tuesday night, it matters a bit. Expect Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, House and Chalmers to see action. Much has been made of the Heat’s bench — its age, its lack of speed, its potential to under-perform. But if anyone understands that benches account for only a portion of a team’s overall final grade, it’s the Celtics. The 2007-08 Celtics had only one bench player with a PER greater than 13.0 – Leon Powe. Benches are important, particularly if a team is forced to endure injuries — and the Heat already have. But with enough firepower in the staring lineup, their deficiencies can be hidden, as both the Celtics and Lakers have shown in recent years.”
CH: How big is the issue with the Heat’s on-court chemistry issues with Dwayne Wade missing most of the preseason and Jerry Stackhouse joining the team just a few days ago?
Kevin Arnovitz: “Chemistry tends to be self-fulfilling. If the Heat win on Tuesday night, then they’ll have displayed great chemistry. Where the lack of time playing and practicing together might manifest itself is on the defensive end, where communication is so important. Offensively, it would’ve been nice for James, Wade and Bosh to log a few more minutes as a unit, but each is such a lethal one-on-one threat who can dominate a game individually from his position.”
CH: Which matchup favors the Heat the most and which favors the Celtics? Will either prove to be an x-factor for tonight’s game?
Kevin Arnovitz: “The Celtics play such a fluid, active brand of defense that I never feel they’re susceptible to exploitation by a single matchup. Their challenge is going to be more systematic — how do they load up on one side of the floor as they like to do, without leaving themselves vulnerable to a quick reversal. Normally that’s only a moderate concern, but Wade and James on the wings present new complications. The Heat have some decisions of their own to make and you have to wonder if James and/or Wade will be asked to defend Rondo at the top of the floor, because Arroyo isn’t a strong defender. The Heat’s biggest matchup issue might be themselves, insofar as they haven’t had much time to establish a defensive rhythm. The Celtics’ diet of rotating pick-and-rolls can be dizzying. If a defense isn’t on the same page, easy shots materialize for the C’s.”
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