Celtics look to get another win streak going tonight, as they take on the Heat at 6:00 tonight. The schedule makers would have done well to have made this game start about an hour later. It’s always tough to expect a decent audience while there’s a Patriots game going on. Especially a game as interesting as Denver vs New England. Luckily, the first quarter should start right around half-time. Also, the NFL’s over-saturation of commercials will give diehards of both the Celts and Pats a lot of opportunities to keep up with both teams.
Miami has dealt with a lot of injuries
The only player to play in all 27 games for Miami this season is Hassan Whiteside. Tonight’s questionables are Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington. Dion Waiters is still not ready to come back, and will be out tonight.
Slowing down Goran Dragic
Dragic is a very pesky player to play against. He also tends to dribble a lot. He loves taking the ball into the paint, and either sneaking in a layup, just dribble through the lane, or collapse the defense and find the open man. If he is matched up against Thomas a lot tonight, he will be aggressive and try to get a little opening down low. The Heat are one of the worst three point shooting teams in the league, so it will be important that the defense focuses on protecting the paint. Especially, anytime Dragic forces Whiteside’s defender to help. The Celtics will need to make sure there is a defender in between Whiteside and the basket, or else it be an easy two.
Win the rebounding battle
Last time Boston was in Miami, they were without Horford, and still managed to only lose the rebounding battle by 1 rebound. Tonight, Boston has Al Horford, so you’d expect Boston to be able to out-rebound Miami.
Miami’s rebounding numbers are a good example why I am starting to think rebounding is a hard to quantify statistic. They have the best rebounder in the league, but are only ranked 18th in defensive rebound percentage. They are ranked 8th in offensive rebound percentage, but you’d think they’d be top 5. Miami averages out to getting 3 out of every 4 defensive rebounds, so there should be some opportunities for the Celtics on the offensive glass.
The reason I don’t put a lot of stock in rebounding stats is players are shooting from further away from the basket every year. The area that needs to be covered to guarantee a rebound has grown. The amount of energy the ball has on a three is much greater than a twelve or fourteen foot shot. So, the ball can cover a lot more ground once it makes contact with the rim. Still, some players are great at reading how the ball will react once it hits the rim. Also, hustle is important, as players need to want the ball more than their opponent on some rebound opportunities.
Starting lineup changes for the Celtics?
Brad Stevens has started Amir Johnson for every game except for one. Given how many minutes he’s been giving Johnson, it appears that Johnson’s starting days are in jeopardy. The starter’s offense is all about spacing and ball movement. Bradley, Crowder, Thomas, and Horford all have the ability to shoot effectively any where on the court. Amir doesn’t have great range.
Last game, I noticed a play early on where Amir found himself just outside the free throw line with the ball. He was wide open, as the Celtics ball movement forced his defender to help off of Amir. Any of the other starters would have taken the wide open shot. Instead, Amir immediately looked for someone to pass to on the perimeter, which gave Charlotte’s defense time to reset. Replacing Amir with a shooter will help open the floor up, or create open shots.
Jonas Jerebko is a likely replacement for Johnson in the starting lineup. Jerebko has been playing solid basketball this season, and he’s done a great job of playing within himself. There is a very good chance that Stevens will make a change relatively soon.