Boston: 98.6 points/100 possessions (25th)
Miami: 106.7 points/100 possessions (2nd)
Boston: 96.1 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
Miami: 97.4 points allowed/100 possessions (4th)
Probable Miami starters: Mario Chalmers (PG), Dwayne Wade (SG), LeBron James (SF), Chris Bosh (PF), Joel Anthony (C)
Injury Report: Ray Allen is shooting around before the game. No word yet on whether he’ll play.
View From The Opposing Bench: The Heat Index
The Boston team that lost to Miami on December 27 bears little resemblance to this one. Injuries have felled the C’s bigs, the starting rotation is smaller and sleeker, and the Celtics are back atop the Atlantic Division. However, the C’s are still maligned for their failure to beat great teams. Today, the Celtics get their first of three April shots at rectifying that against the Miami Heat. Over the last month, a wearied Miami has had its own problems against elite-ish teams, dropping games to OKC, Orlando, Indiana and Chicago. Last year’s playoff win aside, the Celtics are still one of the teams the Heat measure themselves against, so both teams should come out locked in.
Click this to read all our answers, but here’s a sample to tide you over.
2. What will you be focused on in this matchup on Sunday?
Greg Payne: I really want to see how Avery Bradley defends Dwyane Wade. If Ray Allen does return, Bradley won’t see as much time as he has over past handful of games, but I see him as a player who can have a very distinct impact on the game defensively, by helping to slow down Miami’s offensive juggernaut. I highly doubt Boston can stop the Heat completely (who can?), but if Bradley can help to stymie at least a portion of the three-headed monster, the Celtics will have a much better chance of knocking off the Heat.
Ryan DeGama: Something that’s key to a prospective playoff series between these teams: the extent to which Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce can put their offensive imprints on the game. The Celtics need all three of these guys asserting themselves, which means Rondo needs to tear up the hardwood in transition and attack in the half-court, Garnett needs 18+ shots and Pierce needs to be on from the arc and drawing fouls off the dribble. Otherwise, the C’s won’t be able to score enough against Miami’s hyperkinetic defense to win.
Chris Forsberg: Let’s start with turnovers. Boston gave up the ball 24 times (leading to 33 points) in the first meeting and there’s virtually no way you overcome that against a team like the Heat (at least not without having to junk up the game with a zone defense to rally back). Boston has valued the ball far better in the second half of the year and that must continue Sunday. The other focus should be on the glass. For all of that’s made about their height woes, opponents still struggle on the glass against the Heat. Boston built its team last year around trying to win that battle — alas the O’Neals couldn’t stay healthy — but the Celtics have more athleticism now with Garnett at the 5 and that might allow them to be more competitive there.
The Celtics play some of their best basketball of the season but eventually find baskets too hard to come by and the Heat walk away with the win.
Miami 91 Boston 82