Depleted Celtics Host Surging Heat

Miami Heat (39-14) at Boston Celtics (38-14)
Sunday, February 13
1:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #53 – Home Game #29
TD Garden
Referees:    Ken Mauer,  Kane Fitzgerald,  Zach Zarba

This is the 3rd meeting between these two teams. The Celtics won the first two games convincingly with one game in Boston and one in Miami. While the Celtics have been struggling with injuries, the Heat have been getting healthy and are only missing Udonis Haslem. The Celtics on the other hand will be playing with just 10 players once again.

The Celtics have won their last 7 games and 13 of their last 14 vs the Heat.   The Heat know that their best chance to beat the Celtics this season is in this game because of the Celtics lack of depth due to injuries. I expect the Heat to be aggressive from the start and try to get the Celtics in foul trouble early to take advantage of their weakened bench. Judging from the officiating crew, they will be sure to get plenty of help from the referees.

This game is very important to both teams in the standings. After trailing the Celtics for most of the season, the Heat have taken a half a game lead over the Celtics in the standings. If the Heat wins this game they will stretch the lead to 1.5 games but if the Celtics can pull it out, they will once again take the lead.

The Heat are 19-9 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They have also on an 8 game win streak. The Celtics are 23-5 at home but just 5-5 in their last 10 games and have lost their last 2 games.

With the odds stacked against them in this game, it will take an inspired effort from every Celtic that takes the court. The Celtics have had 2 days off prior to this game and will have 2 more off before facing the Nets in their last game before the All Star Game. Having lost their last two games and the Eastern Conference lead, the Celtics should be motivated.   I wouldn't count them out.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo   11.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.4 SPG
Mario Chalmers   6.4 PPG,  2.2 APG,  1.1 SPG

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen 17.5 PPG,  2.9 APG,  .459 3P%
Dwyane Wade  25.2 PPG, 4.4 APG,  .313 3P%

Small Forward
Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.3 APG
LeBron James  26.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.3 APG

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett  14.8 PPG,  9.0 RPG,  0.7 BPG
Chris Bosh  18.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG,  0.7 BPG

Kendrick Perkins   6.9 PPG,  8.4 RPG,  0.9 BPG
Zydrunas Ilgauskas  5.1 PPG,  4.6 RPG,  0.9 BPG 

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Luke Harangody
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley

Delonte West (wrist)  day to day
Shaquille O'Neal (knee) day to day
Semih Erden (abductor)  day to day
Nate Robinson (knee)  day to day
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Marquis Daniels (spinal chord)  out

Miami's Reserves
Mike Miller
Carlos Arroyo
Juwan Howard
Eddie House
Jamaal Magloire
Joel Anthony
Dexter Pittman
James Jones  

Udonis Haslem

Key Matchups
Pretty much every matchup is key between these two teams.  We start with their semi-big 3 against the Celtics real big 3.

Paul Pierce  vs  LeBron James
This is one of the better matchups in the league and these two have gone at each other in a lot of big games over their careers.   In Miami,  LeBron has been playing point forward and Pierce will have to guard him as he brings the ball up and tries to set up the offense.  Hopefully Paul has been able to shake off the flu symptoms that plagued him before Thursday's game as he will need to be at his best to stay with LeBron.  

Kevin Garnett vs Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh always seems to be intimidated by KG.  I can't say as I blame him.  Hopefully that trend continues in this game and KG has a big game and can also keep Bosh in check.  KG played a little tentatively against the Lakers but that could be because he knew there were no back ups for him and he needed to stay out of foul trouble.  With Semi and Shaq both day to day, that may be the case again in this game.

Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade
Now that the excitement of breaking the 3 point record is behind him, Ray can get back to playing without that hanging over him.  I think breaking the record took an emotional toll on him in the Lakers game but expect him to come out strong in this game.  He will need to run Wade through the screens to get open and at the same time, will need to keep Wade from putting up big numbers as well.

Honorable Mention

Rajon Rondo vs Mario Chalmers
After beginning the season with Arroyo at the point the Heat have now moved Chalmers into the starting five.   If Rondo is motivated, he should have little problem with either as neither is a defensive threat.  On the other hand, Rondo has to defend Chalmers on the 3 point line as he loves to hit from there.  Rondo has to be aggressive in this one.  If he is tentative then the team will be as well.  As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.

Kendrick Perkins vs Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Ilgauskas has slowed quite a bit over the years but still can hit the mid range shot.  He isn't big on battling in the paint and so Perk will need to guard him further out.  Perk should be able to get inside on the offensive end and will need to convert if they get the ball inside to him.

Bench vs Bench
The Celtics bench is depleted from injuries and that took its toll in the Lakers game.  Big Baby and Von Wafer must have big games and if Nate can't go, Avery is going to have to contribute as well.  There has been talk of Delonte coming back to give 5-10 minutes in this game and Semih may be a possibility, but other than that, the Celtics are going to have to play with what they have.  The Heat have Mike Miller and James Jones who are dangerous from the perimeter coming off their bench and whoever the Celtics have available will have to commit to defending them.

Keys to the Game
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics must limit their turnovers as the Heat will turn them into fast break points.  Both Wade and LeBron can get quick points if the Celtics get careless with the ball.  

Rebound - The Celtics have to limit the Heat's second chance baskets and fast breaks by crashing the boards.  Unlike the Lakers, the Heat aren't very strong inside and so if the Celtics put out the effort, they should be able to control the boards.

Defense -  The Heat are trying to make defense their calling card this season and have been doing a good job of it.  The Celtics have to make defense their priority.   With KG and Perk as the anchors on the defense,  the Celtics should be able to out-defend the Heat but again, the key is effort.  

Go to the Hoop
-   When you go to the basket, good things happen.  The Celtics have got to be aggressive in getting to the basket and not settle for jumpers.

Move the Ball - The Celtics must move the ball and run their offense to find the open man.  If the ball gets stuck and players try to do too much, the offense stalls and they will struggle to score.  When they run the offense and play unselfish Celtics basketball where they find the open man, they are tough to beat. 

Official Report 
Ken Mauer
Mauer has been a referee since the 1986-87 season and has officiated over 1,200+ regular season games, 70+ play-off games and 4 NBA Finals games. Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc less than 3 minutes into a game. In a recent Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. Mauer was one of the refs charged with tax evasion and obstructing federal tax laws for receiving substantial taxable income from 1989 through 1994 and failing to declare it. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title. He seemed to have it out for Marquis in the last game vs the Jazz as he called every little infraction against him after Quisy complained about a call. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Mauer officiating. The Heat are also 6-4 with Mauer in their last 10. His home W/L record is 24-17.

Kane Fitzgerald
The Celtics are 5-1 this season with Fitzgerald officiating. He has officiated more of the Celtics games this season than any other ref. He is a former D-League official and is in his second season calling NBA games. One of those wins was no thanks to Fitzgerald who gave KG a very quick pair of technicals (from about 30 feet away) and tossed him in the 2nd quarter of the Celtics 104-101 win over the Knicks (in which Amare scored 30). In his last outing with the Celtics, he tossed Stephen Jackson after 2 quick questionable T's. His quickness with the T dates back to his days in the D-league where he was close to the top in calling technical fouls there as well. His home W/L record is 22-18 this season.

Zach Zarba
Zarba has officiated over 175+ regular season games and spent 2 years officiating the D-League. He also spent 1 year with the CBA and 3 years at the college level. His first season in the NBA was in 2004. He has worked his way up the referee ladder fairly quickly and was on the playoff roster for the first time last season. The Celtics are 2-0 with Zarba this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with him. Both games with Zarba this season (Utah, Toronto) have been called fairly even. The Heat are 7-3 in their last 10 games with Zarba as an official. His home W/L record is 23-21 this season.

I don't know who will or won't be available for this one.  Shaq still may not be back until after the All Star break.  Semih, and Nate are day to day.  There has been talk of Delonte coming back but just for 5 or 10 minutes but depending on how practice goes, it may not be until Wednesday or even after the break.  With just 9 players available, it makes it tough to play against a team at almost full strength.