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Miami HEAT at Boston Celtics Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: ESPN)

The Miami HEAT battle the Boston Celtics tonight at TD Garden on the second night of a back-to-back. The HEAT look to win their 23rd straight game, which would give them the second longest streak in NBA history. Tip off is set for 8 PM; coverage starts on Sun Sports at 7:30 PM.

1: The Celtics have won seven of their last ten. How have they changed without Rajon Rondo?

Couper Moorhead: Boston has probably changed less than people think without Rondo. The team has been given credit for improving its ball movement since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, but their assist rates per 100 possessions have hardly changed at all while the Celtics are still just as reliant on the mid-range jumper as they were with Rondo. That’s not to say there haven’t been improvements anywhere, as the team is getting more corner three attempts, but most likely the main cause for better offensive and defensive efficiency has been the team simply playing better while moving the ball enough to make up for Rondo’s absence. Sometimes, especially on defense, you can improve significantly by playing harder for longer.

Danny Martinez: Since the Rondo injury, the Celtics have seen a small uptick in their offense, but an even bigger jump in their defense. Many thought that the Rondo injury would significantly hinder the Celtics’ offense, but the reality is that the offense had nowhere to go but up. The everyday Rondo isn’t the one we saw score 44 points against the HEAT in last season’s playoffs. The Celtics relied on mid-range jump shots before the injury and they still do after the injury. The defensive improvement is the bigger deal, and it’s probably been the result of a higher sustained energy level. The Celtics have a stout defensive system and it took some time for them to round into top form. Rondo’s injury might have spurred that, but it was going to happen at some point.

2: Should we take much from this game if Kevin Garnett (50/50 to play) doesn’t go?

Couper: If Kevin Garnett doesn’t play, this game is effectively meaningless – the most important thing that would come out of it would be simply if Miami’s extends its 22-game winning streak or not. If Garnett does play, we could get a decent sense for how the Celtics will attack the HEAT on one end – can they hit Garnett with over-the-top passes that take advantage of the HEAT’s defensive holes the way Rondo would – and whether or not the lack of Rondo’s defensive playmaking and/or gambling makes Boston a more effective though possibly less dynamic defensive team. Garnett playing gives us a shot at finding some answers. Garnett’s absence renders the questions useless.

Danny: Not really. Garnett is such a huge part of what the Celtics do that his absence would render the contest useless in terms of predictive value. Garnett is the defensive anchor for the Celtics and his on/off court data the last few seasons has been astounding. While some may have thought that Rondo was the most important player on the Celtics, it’s probably clear now that the distinction belongs to Garnett. The game still has meaning, especially considering the streak that the HEAT are on, but it’s not the same longterm without Garnett.

3: Is our perspective of the Miami-Boston rivalry a little skewed these days given how many different lineups each team has had in the past year?

Couper: There has been so little consistency in Miami-Boston games in the past year that it is difficult to put much emphasis on any game, regular season or playoffs. Chris Bosh was either gone or slowly coming back from injury for most of the seven-game Eastern Conference Finals, then Ray Allen changes teams, then Boston is trying to introduce a slew of new perimeter players, then Boston loses Rajon Rondo – it’s still an incredibly fun (and true) rivalry, but don’t read too much into the results when the process, on either side, is constantly being tinkered with.

Danny: It’s kind of crazy how the Celtics and HEAT keep matching up without full rosters. Going back to last season, it feels as if a key player has missed time in almost every game. It hasn’t made the games or the rivalry less intense, but it does make it tough to gauge where each team is. One thing that has been clear is that neither team will back down and it’s led to some great, great games.

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I wonder if LEBRON will bring that game 6 intensity? This will not be an easy task, yet I'm hoping MIAMI will steamroll these guys. If MIAMI shooters remains hot and the defense stays stingy, the HEAT should prevail, but MIAMI is gonna have to play for 4 qtrs. I expect MIAMI to get that 23rd to take sole possession of that 2nd spot. Go get it...TEAM HEAT since '88!

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Rondo less Celtics is more dangerous due to everyone can shoot and no more ball hogging

Cant wait the show-down of 2 teams with legit small ball

Bosh just needs to outclass KG in order to seal this thing

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5 years ago to this day the Celtics beat Houston to end their 22 game winning streak. That's some weird stuff right there.

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That pic; my favorite moment as evidenced in my avatar haha. Normally I like beating teams at full strength but since this streak is a once in a lifetime deal, I wouldn't mind KG missing the game. You can bet that the guys aren't going to let them off the hook like last time KG or not.

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Heat will be on a mission tonight with all that trash talking PP was doin! Boston and their fans HATE the Heat (look on their fan blogs) and they seem nervous to me. Win or lose, what a journey our guys have been on! This regular season game won't prove anything in the grand scheme. No one is catching us in the East!

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This is just gonna be a low scoring defensive scheme but the offense belongs to Miami. no bother. I watch these pops battle Tanda' and they're getting stops but couldn't buy a freaking bucket. Their shooters are not hot only terry hit a couple.Check punk haters. Show them these pops won't score much on the championship defensive team the Heat's caliber. Like we did in front of chicago.

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The Celtics are scary. Only because they are so unpredictable because of their constant change in effort depending on what game they are playing. I don't really think they stand a chance against us if both teams play their hardest. I do believe the Heat want to make this streak something incredible and put their stamp on this season doing something special in the regular season and post season. We should win this game if we come to play. Great Defense vs. Elite Defense and Offense vs. Elite Offense. Hmmm yeah go heat

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This is just gonna be a low scoring defensive scheme but the offense belongs to Miami. no bother. I watch these pops battle Tanda' and they're getting stops but couldn't buy a freaking bucket. Their shooters are not hot only terry hit a couple.Check punk haters. Show them these pops won't score much on the championship defensive team the Heat's caliber. Like we did in front of chicago.

Dig your style, dawg

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LBJ will come to play so I think this will nullify Pierce. In a strange way its going to be Avery Bradley who will be the key to this game, he dogs our guards like no one else and their handle and rhythym gets thrown off. I can never forget how he embarrased DWade last year when he was not 100% healthy...if i know Dwade he will be special tonight (25, 7, 6, 2) he has a very good memory, Bosh has been lights out 16 pts 8 rebs from him tonight is what we need. Finally Norris Cole needs to be like fly on s*^& on avery and disrupt thier offense get him tired make him work like a dog. Defenders hate being given their own medicine. 3 threes form Ray and 3 from Battier...MIA wins 103-94.

Its not about them its about us, if Miami doesn't beat themselves they win

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They hate us so much and of course they want to break our winning streak, every time they play us, they got old memories when they were called the "Big 3" that's why they will play with high intensity from the start to the end.

LETS GO HEAT

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"your style" I'm cool. What's your style, afro.

He is more viking than afro Bro :P:D:P

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91992920130318194505.jpg

Sorry for the quality of that pic but Birdman makes me laugh. What do you think about the style of Jesus Shuttlesworth ? Does he wear a green top to troll the C's ?

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"if LEBRON bring that game 6 intensity", took 23 or so shots for 45 points. Right now you want him to hit timely oportunity shots. He seem to play with the team and more to the flow of offense. That's what you want with unselfishness but not too unselfish. Take few shots make most if not all then take advantage when on fire, get to the line rebound set people off traps, do everything.

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Heat should blow em out to keep Terrys blabbering mouth shut for a bit.

Even dead, he will speak how he hates the heat to the Devil himself

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"your style" I'm cool. What's your style, afro.

"more viking than afro" from sweden though. may be viking afro.

Apparently, you've never heard of Jules Winnfield. Nonetheless, I found your way of writing funny. If "Viking Afro" is all you got, I'm disappointed..

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Apparently, you've never heard of Jules Winnfield. Nonetheless, I found your way of writing funny. If "Viking Afro" is all you got, I'm disappointed..

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    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT host the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Bucks 116-108 in their last meeting on January 13. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
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      Couper Moorhead: Mainly that Miami found a way to win a close game down the stretch. Much was made of the interesting Hassan Whiteside-Dirk Nowitzki matchup at center, and while Nowitzki earned more open jumpers on the perimeter than Whiteside got efficient looks inside overall, with the rest of the Mavericks so unwilling to challenge Whiteside in the paint those open pick-and-pop looks became one of the only options for Dallas when mostly starters were in at the end. This was especially true when Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews were off the floor to start the fourth quarter, when you got the sense Dallas was trying to hang in long enough to buy their closers some rest, but when James Johnson effectively shut down Barnes in the post the Mavericks were again left with mostly perimeter shots. Miami’s offense enjoyed an explosive performance from Goran Dragic, but it was their defense throughout the quarter which kept Dallas at bay.
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      Highlights:
      January 13-HEAT at Bucks
      November 17-Bucks at HEAT
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      Efficiencies (Rank):
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    • By Joe B.
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      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
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      Joe: While the Mavericks have struggled for a majority of the season due to injuries, things have gotten better of late with the team playing small-ball. In fact, Dallas has won three straight since Rick Carlisle started the three-guard lineup of Deron Williams, Seth Curry and Wes Matthews alongside Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki. In total, that five-man lineup has produced a 122.8 offensive rating in 63 minutes. 
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      3: Are there any matchups Miami can try to take advantage of Thursday night?
      Couper: This depends on whether or not Dallas makes a pre-game adjustment. In Andrew Bogut’s absence (he’s dealing with a hamstring injury) the Mavericks have been starting Dirk Nowitzki, now 38 years old, at center along with Harrison Barnes at the power forward spot. If Dallas stays with that alignment then the HEAT would have a significant size advantage in the middle of the floor with Hassan Whiteside, even with Dallas playing at such a slow pace that they’ll be more than willing to send a ton of bodies to the defensive glass. Yes, this would mean Whiteside would also have to track Nowitzki in the pick-and-pop and on the perimeter, but that’s a tradeoff Miami will more than likely be happy with given how much attention the Mavericks would have to devote to the HEAT’s center on the other end.
      What’s probably more likely, however, is that Dallas plays seven-footer Salah Mejri over his usual minute allotment to try and match size-for-size. Dallas has actually been an above-average defensive team with Mejri (or Bogut) on the floor.
      Joe: The clear-cut one for Miami is Whiteside against Nowitzki. On Tuesday, the big fella out of Marshall used his size advantage wisely against both Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell and tallied a double-double early on in the third quarter. That could be the case once more against a Mavericks team that is thin on bigs with Andrew Bogut out. Of course, Whiteside will also have to go out on the perimeter to defend one of the best shooters in NBA history in Nowitzki. Still, the 27-year-old has the right disposition needed to limit the sure-fire Hall of Famer.
      “I’m a defensive-minded guy,” Whiteside said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m a guy that takes pride in defense regardless of wherever we’re at on the court.”
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      Highlights:
      February 3-HEAT at Mavericks
      January 1-Mavericks at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      The HEAT are 12-30, while the Mavericks enter the contest at 14-27. Miami has won nine of its past ten games against Dallas. Tyler Johnson and James Johnson are the only two players in the NBA this season to record at least 400 points, 150 rebounds and 100 assists apiece off the bench. Harrison Barnes leads the Mavericks in scoring at 20.6 points per game.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
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    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
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    • By Joe B.
      Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
      The Miami HEAT host the Houston Rockets Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Rockets 115-102 in their last meeting on February 2. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
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      Joe Beguiristain: Although it’s hard to predict when guys like Josh Richardson or Josh McRoberts will come back from injury, there is one thing you can pretty much bank on from the HEAT moving forward: they will give it their all.
      In particular, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson have been the catalysts on that front, as the duo has provided a lift off the bench with its playmaking skills, pace of play and most importantly, defense. They also have played quite well down the stretch of late. In fact, T. Johnson is shooting 45.5 percent in clutch situations this season (up or down five points in the last five minutes of a game). On the flip side of the ball, he leads the team with four blocks when using those same parameters. J. Johnson, meanwhile, trails just Goran Dragić and Justise Winslow with five assists in clutch situations.
      While Dragić and Hassan Whiteside have been the focal point of Miami’s offense all year, you can make the argument that Johnson & Johnson are just as important to the team’s success.
      2: What has made the Houston Rockets so good this year?
      Couper: It’s all about the offense. Houston is currently third in Offensive Rating, scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions – trailing only Toronto and Golden State teams in the midst of possibly two of the best offensive seasons of all time. As Erik Spoelstra put it at practice on Monday, it’s a perfect marriage of a franchise with specific beliefs (valuing three and layups over mid-range shots), a coach in Mike D’Antoni who was part of revolutionizing league scoring with the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns, an incredible individual talent in James Harden who has taken on even more of a playmaking burden this year at point guard and a dynamic mix of athletic talent and incredible shooters (Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson) which lets the team play with great pace.
      Great offense alone doesn’t carry you to a 32-11 record, however. The Rockets lost Dwight Howard in free agency but the replacement frontcourt of Clint Capela, Nene and Montezl Harrell has helped keep the Rockets around league average defensively. Put it all together and it’s an entire franchise, not just a player or a style of play, firing on all cylinders. 
      Joe: Threes, threes and more threes. Houston leads the league by a wide margin in 3-pointers attempted per game and connects on 37.5 percent of them. Of course, when you have a team coached by offensive guru Mike D’Antoni, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. What has been a bit unexpected is how the Rockets haven’t missed a beat despite losing some key players in the offseason like Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Jason Terry.
      While James Harden has had an MVP-worthy season thus far with 12 triple-doubles, newcomers Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson have really come on strong for Houston. How strong? Well, both Gordon and Anderson lead the team in three-point shooting at 41.1 percent and 40.3 percent respectively (minimum of one three taken per game).
      In addition to being one of the best offensive teams in the league, the Rockets are also one of the faster teams, averaging 101.17 possessions per game. As Coach Spo said after practice on Sunday, “It feels like sometimes they have six players on the floor. It’s the Phoenix Suns of 2003-2004 on steroids.”
      3: How can Miami combat Houston’s dynamic offense?
      Couper: Put pressure on them with Hassan Whiteside. The more bodies that have to deal with Whiteside on the glass, the fewer bodies that can leak out in transition and get set up for the quick threes which make up so many of Houston’s explosive runs. Unlike the Warriors, however, who lack athleticism and length at their center position, the Rockets have their own young athlete in Capela, who is likely to play after missing about a month. Still, Whiteside should have an advantage as far as bulk goes, so him slowing Houston down with relentless energy could pay dividends for Miami over the course of a full game. 
      Then there’s all the details. Miami will have to always be ready to help on James Harden without fouling, since he’s so dynamic at getting into the paint, but when the Rockets are able to run they have to be highly aware of where all the shooters are on the floor. Similar to the Warriors game last week, the Rockets have the personnel to punish every mistake in the open floor.
      Lastly, the HEAT can’t turn the ball over. You don’t want to be too safe with your offense because then you’re hurting yourself too much on that end, but live-ball turnovers will dig you a hole in a hurry against elite, up-tempo offenses.
      Joe: It’s easier said than done, but Miami has to run Houston off the three-point line. If the Rockets get into a nice rhythm from deep, you’re essentially done for. Case in point: Houston set a regular season record with 24 made 3-pointers against the Pelicans on December 16.
      Stopping Harden from getting into the paint will also be a tall task, as the 27-year-old is among the league's best with 11.2 drives per game. After practice on Monday, Dion Waiters talked about how difficult it is to play aggressive defensively on Harden due to his ability to draw fouls. As such, the HEAT will have to be very smart when guarding the dynamic playmaker.
      On the flip side of the ball, Miami should have an advantage against a Rockets defense that has tallied a 110.7 rating over its last seven games. Hopefully Dragić and Whiteside can put pressure on Houston in the pick-and-roll game, which in turn should lead to open guys on the perimeter.
      At the end of the day, the HEAT will be put to the test on nearly all fronts. Luckily, the team has had some solid days of work since its last game on Friday against the Bucks, so we’ll see how it all pans out on Tuesday night.

      Highlights:
      February 2-HEAT at Rockets
      November 1-Rockets at HEAT
      Game Notes:
      The HEAT are 11-30, while the Rockets stand at 32-11. Miami has won six of seven against Houston at AmericanAirlines Arena. Goran Dragić leads the HEAT in points (19.0) and assists (6.4) per game. James Harden leads the Rockets in points (28.4), assists (11.7) and rebounds (8.2) per contest.  
      Efficiencies (Rank):
      HEAT Offense: 100.6 (29) HEAT Defense: 105.0 (13) Rockets Offense: 112.6 (3) Rockets Defense: 105.7 (19)