Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Preview
Ok, this should be a good one. The second-seeded Miami Heat will travel to Boston to face off against the fourth-seeded Celtics on Wednesday night. Both teams have been better than expected, with the Heat looking like they’re a trade away from being a title contender. Meanwhile, the Celtics have stayed steady despite plenty of injuries during the early part of the season.
The Heat and Celtics have an unofficial rivalry of sorts dating back to the days of the Lebron James’ era Heatles. From the early part of the decade until now, this Eastern Conference showdown has provided plenty of entertainment. These two teams come into this game in the no. 10 (Boston) and no. 11 (Miami) spots in offensive rating and the no. 6 (Miami) and no. 7 (Boston) spots in defensive rating. A tenth of a point separates them in both metrics, it’s uncanny.
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Arena: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Channel: NBCSB, FSSUN
Heat: Goran Dragic (Q), KZ Okpala (O)
Celtics: Gordon Hayward (O), Marcus Smart (Q)
Miami Heat Starting Lineup
Man, oh man. The Heat are rolling. They have a record of 15-5, hold opponents to the ninth-lowest mark in the league (105.3) and the second-lowest mark from the 3-point line (31.2 percent). They come into this game off the heels of a huge overtime victory over the defending champion Toronto Raptors.
Jimmy Butler, the big offseason signing for the Heat delivered in a big way against the Raptors. He posted a triple-double and scored eight consecutive points to start the extra period. He took the game into his hands, and single handily willed the Heat to victory.
“I’m not going to say that this one is more special than any other one,” Butler said of Miami’s third consecutive win and second straight on the road. “Just two good teams going at it. We are fortunate enough to do our job.”
Butler had 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. Bam Adebayo had 18 points and seven rebounds, Duncan Robinson scored 22 points on six made 3s, and Justice Winslow poured in 17 off the bench in the winning effort.
The Heat are such a dangerous team this season, because of how deep they are. They get legitimate contributions from 10-11 guys on any given night and each guy plays their butt off. Guys like Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, and Tyler Herro play with supreme confidence and are perfect plug-and-play options to line up around Butler. Adebayo is one of the best and most versatile defenders in the game right now and Goran Dragic has embraced his role off the bench. If there is a chance to bolster this roster with a trade around the deadline, there’s no doubt Miami will be working the phones looking to take advantage of an Eastern Conference that is as wide open as it’s ever been.
Boston Celtics Starting Lineup
Boston can’t catch a break with the injuries. Jaylen Brown, Enes Kanter, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward (still out) have all missed time with injuries or illness so far. Now there’s a chance the Celtics could be without Marcus Smart who has an Abdomen injury. Despite the terrible luck with injured players, the Celtics are still in the mix for a top-three seed in the East. They currently sit in fourth with a record of 14-5 after their most recent win against the Knicks on Sunday.
The Celtics were down 93-87 in the fourth quarter and responded with a 17-2 run to take a lead they never relinquished. Jayson Tatum and Brown led the way for Boston. Tatum led the team with 30 points and Brown added 28. Walker (15 points and 10 assists) and Kanter (11 points and 11 rebounds) each had a double-double.
“I don’t know if we got down,” Walker said. “If there is one thing we’re going to do it’s to stay positive with each other. We stuck with it. We stayed together. There’s going to be more games like this. It’s a long year.”
That type of talk from Walker is what his teammates and coaching staff have come to expect. He’s the ultimate leader who never puts his head down and his impact has been very visible within the team. The Celtics are going to compete on the court no matter the opponent or how well or poorly the game is going for them. A drastically different outlook from last season’s team.
Tatum and Brown have seemingly regained the confidence they had during the 2017-18 playoffs, and are playing so well off of one another. Tatum leads Boston in minutes at 34.6 and he’s scoring 21.1 points per game while being one of the league’s best defenders. Brown is the second on the team in minutes at 33.4, and he’s averaging 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 36 percent on his 3s. Boston’s wings are going to have to step up big time tonight to give their team the best chance to pull out a victory.
Key Player Matchups
Jaylen Brown vs. Jimmy Butler
Butler will probably see a couple of different defenders because Boston is constructed to play a malleable type of defense, with multiple wing options. I expect Brown to draw the early assignment if Smart is limited or sits out entirely. Butler hasn’t been an explosive scorer this season–he’s averaging 19.0 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting–but it doesn’t matter because what he has done is run the pick-and-roll efficiently and defend as only Butler can. Brown is no slouch on either end and has displayed some newfound confidence with a tighter handle and softer touch inside of 10 feet. This will be a good one.
Kemba Walker vs. Kendrick Nunn
When I saw Walker go down in a heap against the Nuggets I couldn’t believe it. I feared the worse, but Walker, the trooper that he is only missed one game (one!). Boston can withstand injuries on the wing because of their depth at that position but Walker is a vital piece that they need on the court. The attention he draws off the pick-and-roll and even coming off of off-ball screens can’t be replaced by anyone else on the roster. He will line up across one of this season’s biggest surprises. Kendrick Nunn is a smart player who has cemented himself as the Heat’s starting point guard and he complements Butler very well. Nunn will have his hands full chasing Walker through screens tonight.
For the Celtics, Walker is one of your star pickups for fantasy. He’s available for a salary of $7.7k on FanDuel and projected for 37.3 points. Tatum and Brown are always good picks. They give you points, rebounds and produce from the 3-point line. Tatum is going for $8.2k with projections for 35 points and Brown is available for $7.1k with projections set for 32.2.
For Miami, Butler is going for $8.6k with his fantasy projections set at 39.2 points. He will always be a safe bet for points, rebounds, assists and counting defensive stats. Another good pickup is Adebayo, he’s available for a salary of $8.1k with is projections set for 32.7.
Bet on Matchup
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