The Boston Celtics are coming off of a successful two game wining streak in which they flexed their defensive prowess over the Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic. Now, they’ll travel to Miami to take on the world champion Miami Heat.
The Celtics are obviously a long shot in this game. They’re a rebuilding team going up against a team with three top 20 players and coming off of a championship run. Let’s just say that the Heat won’t be as easy to guard as the Jazz or the Magic proved to be.
The Celtics can still win this game if they give an outstanding effort on the defensive end. They’re going to need some offense from a few select players as well, but tonight’s result will hinge upon the defense.
With that being said, here are the three keys to winning tonight’s game against the Miami Heat.
Contain LeBron James
When I say contain LeBron, I do mean to literally contain him. Lots of people will use this in the context of stopping him, but I don’t really see that happening tonight. Instead, the Celtics will need to contain him and keep him in the middle of the floor in the half court.
James has been horrible this season when shooting from midrange and he’s been fairly bad on close shots as well. James is a combined 6-28 from those areas of the floor. Let’s examine James’ shot chart:
It’s obvious that he’s a good three point shooter now after his breakthrough last season. He’s continuing where he left off so far this year, so you can’t allow him to take those shots anymore. Where he struggles is in the midrange area. You’ve got to work to drive him off of the three point line while keeping him away from the rim.
That’s a difficult task because of the Heat’s elite spacing offense. Most of James’ three point attempts come from spot up situations where he’s left alone. That isn’t something that the Celtics can afford to let happen tonight. James is a shooter from deep and a great finisher–work the most to keep him out of those areas and let whatever happens next happen.
Be aggressive when trying to force turnovers
The Heat haven’t been very good at taking care of the ball this season. About 17% of their possessions have resulted in a turnover according to NBA.com’s stat tool. Their assist to turnover ratio is a below average 1.68. This is the chink in the armor that the Celtics have to exploit.
So that means that they can’t be timid when playing the passing lanes–I’d encourage them to go for steals even if that means you might be giving up an easy bucket. They need to trust the man behind them to make a solid rotation like they’ve been doing all season long.
If they see someone struggling to handle the ball under pressure, I’d encourage them to reach. Or, at the least, send a stunt to distract that player so that the man guarding the ball can have an opportunity to make a play.
Get Jeff Green Going
Jeff Green needs as many opportunities to make plays on offense as he can get. He needs to be fed the ball in transition where he scores 1.83 points per possession according to Synergy Sports. Green always runs the floor well and, when on the move, is liable to draw fouls or get to the hoop.
He also needs to see what he can get out of post plays depending on who’s guarding him. If the Celtics can draw him mismatches by running him through screens and forcing Miami to switch, he could have a very good night.
It all depends on how the Celtics want to go about getting him the ball, but the main thing is that he needs to touch it. He’s the Celtics’ best scorer at this point and he needs to showcase that tonight. It may be a struggle to get him the ball because of the C’s point guard struggles but that’s something that will come with time. Hopefully they have good guard play tonight–they’ll need it.
As I said in the beginning, it’s a long shot for the Celtics to win this game. But it’s entirely possible if they can force themselves some extra possessions through turnovers and defend well enough to keep themselves in the game. Also, if they get Jeff Green going, that may be just what they need as far as offense to pull out a W tonight.