Preview by Jack Simone, CLNS Media
Boston (35-33, 32-36 ATS) gave up 79 first half points to Miami this past Tuesday. Tonight, they look for revenge against the Heat (37-31, 31-35-2 ATS) in a game that is a must-win if the Celtics wish to avoid the play-in tournament.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Heat are 1.5 point favorites.
- Point Spread: Heat -1.5
- Over-Under: 224.5 points
- Money line: Celtics +100, Heat -120
Victor Oladipo is the lone Miami absence, as he continues to deal with a knee issue.
Jaylen Brown would miss the remainder of the 2020-21 season. He will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. Robert Williams will also be out for tonight’s game with turf toe.
Predicted Starting Lineups
G: Kemba Walker
G: Marcus Smart
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson
G: Kendrick Nunn
G: Duncan Robinson
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Trevor Ariza
C: Bam Adebayo
Jimmy Butler led the Heat in points (26), rebounds (8), and assists (11) on Sunday. Miami also had a very successful three-point attack, led by Duncan Robinson (6-10 3PT). They had five players make two or more three-pointers and six players score in double figures. Miami shot 57.3% from the field and 45.7% from deep.
Including the win vs Boston on Sunday, the Heat won five of their last six games. They sit at 37-31 on the season, good for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Boston featured a well-rounded offensive attack on Sunday, with five players scoring 15 or more points. Evan Fournier led that group with 30, his season-high in a Celtics uniform. Jayson Tatum also had a solid bounce-back outing, dropping 29 points on fairly efficient shooting. Kemba Walker (18), Marcus Smart (16), and Aaron Nesmith (16) rounded out the Celtics’ double-digit scorers.
The Celtics stand two games behind Miami in the standings, with the tie-breaker on the line tonight. Boston is 35-33 this year and is seventh in the Eastern Conference, the top seed in the play-in tournament.
Allowing 79 points in a single half is unacceptable. Boston’s defense has been dreadful in recent weeks, which was 25th in terms of defensive rating (119.6) over the last five games. The Celtics have allowed 123.8 points a game over that span, which ranks 25th in the league. Boston has a top-10 offense in the last five games (ORTG 119.3), so keying in on defense has to be the priority.
Last game, 27 of Miami’s 35 three-point attempts came when the defender was at least four feet away. On five of Duncan Robinson’s 10 three-point attempts, the defender was 4-6 feet away, and he made four of them.
The NBA classifies shots as “open” when a defender is 4-6 feet away, and “very open” when a defender is 6+ feet away. Other players to get multiple “open” three-pointers include Tyler Herro (2-2), Kendrick Nunn (2-3), and Goran Dragic (1-2). The Celtics have to tighten up on the perimeter, as they’ve struggled to guard the three-point line all season.
An efficient game from behind the arc is crucial to the success of the Celtics. With Brown and Williams sidelined, Boston will have to move the ball and find open shots. When they shoot less than 37% from deep this season they are 7-22. When that magic number is 37% or higher, they are 28-11. The C’s need to prioritize creating good looks from deep instead of settling for bail-out threes at the end of the shot clock.
The C’s have an uphill battle tonight. A severe lack of defensive presence in recent weeks and no Robert Williams does not bode well for them.
Heat 129, Celtics 115
TIP OFF: 1:00 p.m. @ TD Garden
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub