Boston Celtics (34-10) at Miami Heat (24-20) Game #45 1/25/24

Boston Celtics (34-10) at Miami Heat (24-20) Game #45 1/25/24

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The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip with a stop in Miami to take on the Heat. This is the 2nd of 3 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 119-111 in Boston on October 27. They will meet a third time in Miami on February 11. The Celtics are 80-53 overall all time and 38-30 in games played in Miami.

The Celtics remain 1st in the East, 3 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee (now coached by former Celtics coach Doc Rivers), 4 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 7 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland, and 7 games ahead of 5th place New York. They are 14-9 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 23-6 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 2 games.

The Heat are 6th in the East, 10 games behind 1st place Boston, 3 games behind 4th place Cleveland, and 3 games behind 5th place New York. They are tied with 7th place Indiana, and moving into the play in games. They are 6.5 games ahead of 11th place Brooklyn and dropping out of playoff contention. They are 12-9 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 18-13 against Eastern Conference teams and have lost their last 4 games.

The Celtics are playing in the 3rd and final game of a 3 game road trip. They won the first 2 games at Houston and Dallas. The Celtics will return home after this game for a 7 game home stand that will include the Clippers, Pelicans, Pacers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Hawks and Wizards. They will then play at Miami once again and then a home and home set vs the Nets.

The Heat are playing in their 2nd straight home game and on the second night of back to back games, having hosted the Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Heat are 2-3 on the second night of back to back games. After this game they will play at New York and then host Sacramento and Phoenix before another 4 game home stand that will end with the final game against the Celtics.

The Celtics have no one on the injury list at this time. For the Heat, Jaime Jaquez, Jr is questionable with a groin injury. He has missed the last 6 games and has yet to return to a full practice. Dru Smith is out with a 3rd degree knee sprain. Kevin Love left Wednesday’s game with an illness and is a game time decision for this game.

Terry Rozier joined the Heat on Wednesday and came off the bench with Herro, Richardson, Butler, Highsmith, and Adebayo starting. I’m going to take a wild guess that Rozier will start this game but they have been shuffling starters and so this is just a guess at who will be starting for them.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Jrue HolidaySG: Derrick WhiteSF: Jaylen BrownPF: Jayson TatumC: Kristaps Porzingis

Celtics ReservesDelano BantonOshae BrissettSam HauserAl HorfordLuke KornetSvi MykhailiukPayton PritchardLamar StevensJordan Walsh

2 Way PlayersJD DavisonDrew PetersonNeemias Queta

Injuries/OutNone

Head CoachJoe Mazzulla

Probable Heat Starters

PG: Terry Rozier SG: Tyler HerroSF: Jimmy ButlerPF: Nikola JovicC: Bam Adebayo

Heat ReservesThomas Bryant Haywood HighsmithCaleb MartinJosh RichardsonDuncan RobinsonOrlando Robinson

Out/Injuries Jaime Jaquez, Jr (groin) questionableKevin Love (illness) questionableDru Smith (knee) out

Two Way Players Jamal CainRJ Hampton Cole Swider

Head Coach Erik Spoelstra

Key Matchups

Derrick White vs Tyler HerroHerro is averaging 22.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 43.5% from the field and 40.1% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 28 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal. He shot 50% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to stay with him on defense as he can put up points in a hurry and can shoot from pretty much anywhere on the court.

Kristaps Porzingis vs Bam AdebayoAdebayo is averaging 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 50.3% from the field and 10% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. He shot 43.5% from the field but did not take a 3 pointer.

Honorable MentionJaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler Butler is averaging 21.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 48.3 % from the field and 39.7% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics, he finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He shot 27.3% from the field and did not take a 3 pointer.

Keys to the Game Defense – Defense is always the biggest key to winning every game. Both of these teams play tough physical defense. The Celtics need to play team defense and they have to make defense a priority. The Celtics are 2nd with a defensive rating of 110.3 while the Heat are 10th with a defensive rating of 113.0. The Celtics have to show urgency and aggressiveness on defense because the Heat certainly will.

Rebound – As with defense, rebounding will always be a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to grab rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of the game as well. The Heat average 41.6 rebounds (25th)while the Celtics average 47.4 rebounds (1st). The Celtics have to work harder on the boards than the Heat and fight for every rebound.

Urgency and Effort – These are keys to winning most games. If they play with urgency and put out extra effort, they have a good chance of winning the game. The Heat often win their games by playing harder than their opponents. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder and is more aggressive and plays with more urgency. They can’t expect to win this game because they have the best record or because they won the first game between them or because the Heat have lost their last 4 games.

Take Care of the Ball – The Celtics must limit their turnovers in this game as the Heat are good at forcing turnovers and average 16.3 points off turnovers per game. The Celtics have to make crisp passes and be aware of the defenders who are very good at getting into the passing lanes. They have to be careful when handling the ball and not dribble into a crowd and not get sloppy with the ball because if they turn the ball over it will likely be a score for the Heat.

X-Factors On the Road – The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip. They need to get past the distractions of travel and being away from their homes and families and they have to keep from being rattled by the hostile crowd. Heat fans will always want to beat the Celtics and I expect them to let the Celtics know that.

Coaching – The Heat have a top 10 coach, who has been with the Heat since 1997 and has been their head coach since 2008. He has two championships as a head coach. Joe Mazzulla was thrown into the Celtics head coaching position weeks before last season. He has had an off season to prepare for this season and has the Celtics playing very well. Hopefully can hold his own against Spoelstra.

Officiating -Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the home team. Some favor the road team. Some just make bad, head scratching calls. At times the officials have an agenda of some sort. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus from playing the game.

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