This is a difficult game for several reasons. For starters, it’s the second half of a back-to-back game. This is hard regardless, but it’s especially hard when the injury report changes almost daily (sometimes hourly).
Boston will be without the catalysts Malcolm Brogdon (personal reasons), Jaylen Brown (right adductor injury management), Al Horford (lower back stiffness) and Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain) on Tuesday.
#NEBHInjuryReport against Miami:
Malcolm Brogdon (personal reasons) – Done
Jaylen Brown (right adductor injury management) – OUT
Danilo Gallinari (anterior cruciate ligament repair left knee) – OUT
Al-Horford (lower back stiffness) – OUT
Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain) – out
– Boston Celtics (celtics) January 24, 2023
The Celtics also face an opponent who is starting to get back into shape.
This Miami team isn’t currently quite as strong as the group that took the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, but it’s much stronger than the one that started the season 12-15.
“We can never settle down and have a night off. That’s just not who we are.”
Grant Williams talks about the Celtics’ ability to fight back in close games pic.twitter.com/5CWODXQu9J
– Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (NBCSCeltics) January 22, 2023
The Heat have won five out of seven which is the season’s highest four games over .500. They’re starting to look like the team they were last year, and that’s not necessarily ideal timing for a cutback Celtics team.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the regular season – Boston took two out of three – and it is very likely that they will meet again in the playoffs. First, here’s a look at Tuesday’s match.
Who will rise to the challenge after several players are out?
Give the Magic a lot of credit — they won that game, the Celtics didn’t lose — but it likely would unfold differently with the full Celtics roster.
Tuesday’s injury report is more bleak. The players on the list (Smart, Brogdon, Brown, Danilo Gallinari and Al Horford) would make a great lineup.
Who starts the game? Who finished it? How many minutes does Sam Houser play? Is Mfiondu Kabengele run more? What about JD Davison?
Payton Pritchard played 31 games against Orlando. Will he have to do it again? It’s safe to say he doesn’t mind. Will Jason Tatum fall 50? He may have to.
Those who say the regular season is too long are annoying, because obviously the more basketball the better. But, they may have a slight point. There are many games, so it is inevitable that the stars and the main role players will have to sit down for each other.
Well, except for Derek White, who channeled his inner Cal Ripken Jr. this season.
Which style prevails?
The Celtics have scored 111, 134 and 116 points against the Heat this year. Miami has allowed more than 107 once in the ECF.
Defense obviously ramps up in the playoffs, but the Celtics have generally imposed the flow when they meet this season. It will be interesting to observe the team style that prevails on Tuesday.
The Celtics are second in the NBA in points per game (118.1) and third in offensive rating (117). Miami is last in points (108.6), 26th in offensive rating (111) and 28th in speed (97.1).
In theory, a high-scoring game should benefit the Celtics. Both teams are in the top six in the defensive rankings, so pushing the pace and coming up with a transition will be important for Boston.
Can the Celtics keep Bam Adebayo in check?
An ECF stalker, Bam Adebayo has been very consistent against the Celtics this season.
He averaged 23.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in the three face-offs and was often the best player on the floor.
In the playoffs last year, he was brilliant one night (31 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists in a Heat win) and cool the next (9 points in a Heat loss). His success was often a measure of how well the Heat would perform.
He seems to have figured it out this season – again, it’s the regular season, but it’s still noteworthy. Where Adebayo is aggressive, the heat is infinitely more dangerous. When it merges, it can be one-dimensional.
Adebayo averages 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 55.3 percent in January. Can the Celtics get in his head early and confuse him, or will they stick to his last tear?