What a difference a year can make. The Miami Heat take on the Boston Celtics tonight at 7:30 PM but this matchup lacks all the drama from previous battles. Celtics management cleaned house and traded longtime rivals Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry (sent to the Brooklyn Nets) and former head coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers (traded to the Los Angeles Clippers). The new Boston lineup features a collection of former bench players, Nets castoffs and a whole lot of inexperience.
The Celtics are fully-invested in rebuilding for the future but for the Heat, their only quest is to win a third straight championship. After losing two of their first three games, Miami knocked off the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers, improving their record to 4 - 2. Boston (2 - 4) is playing the second of back-to-back games, having won last night's matchup to the Orlando Magic, 91 - 89.
Replacing Rivers is Brad Stevens, the 37-year old head coach, formerly of Butler University. Despite his relative inexperience at the NBA level, Celtics Vice President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is optimistic Stevens can lead Boston. After his hiring in July, Ainge had this to say about Stevens
Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic. His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success, and I look forward to working with him towards Banner 18.
That 18th banner isn't likely to hang any time soon as Stevens continues to mix up various lineups in search of consistency. Boston features Jeff Green (averaging 15.8, although Heat fans may remember his 43-point explosion last March), Brandon Bass (13.7PPG, 5.2 RPG) and Avery Bradley (10.8 PPG).
Miami's lineup remains intact but LeBron James, somewhat hampered by back pains, may play limited minutes. If so, look for the scoring load to be picked up by Dwyane Wade, as he did when he notched 29 points in the win over the Clippers. Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra may continue going deep on the bench, relying on an improved Rashard Lewis (averaging 4.4 points per game) or Michael Beasley.
Miami has already suffered an early-season upset by the Philadelphia 76ers. Can Spoelstra and the Heat use this as motivation to stay focused against a presumably-lesser opponent? Stay tuned and watch tonight's game, which is being broadcast on Sun Sports at 7:30 P.M.
Heat Check - Things to Look For:
- The Heat has scored over 100 points in all six games this season. The Celtics are giving up an average of 93.4 points per game, 2nd best in the NBA. Will Miami continue their high-scoring ways or will the Celtics figure out a way to stop them?
- Miami has been moving the ball extremely well, assisting on 74% of made field goals (first in the NBA) this season. Stay tuned to see if this trend continues.
- Ex-Celtics player Ray Allen scored 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting in Thursday's victory over the Clippers. But for the second time this season, no made field goals were from beyond the arc. Expect Allen to get his shot going early and often.
PG - Mario Chalmers
SG - Dwyane Wade
SF - LeBron James
PF - Udonis Haslem
C - Chris Bosh
PG - Jordan Crawford
SG - Avery Bradley
SF - Jeff Green
PF - Bradon Bass
C - Vitor Faverani
Thanks for stopping by HotHotHoops. Click back later for live commentary during the GameThread, going live at 6:30 PM. For more information on Boston, visit the Celtics Blog.