Surging Celtics look to cool off Heat
The Boston Celtics, who have won four games in a row, host the Miami Heat on Sunday night.
On Saturday night, the Heat defeated the Wizards 128-124, giving Miami its first road win of the season. The Heat have rotated a loss followed by a win in all eight of their games this season.
Against the Wizards, Heat second-year guard Tyler Herro scored 31 points while also producing nine rebounds. He shot 12-for-20 from the floor, 6-for-8 at the foul line and 10-for-13 in the paint. Herro's 31 points were the most he has scored in a regular-season game, although he netted 37 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals last season.
"This is something that he diligently works on," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro's paint work. "It's not just finishing, but it's making the reads and knowing where the weak side help is.
"Plus, he is an elite shooter. He will put it all together."
Herro said he expects to have these types of games in this his second season.
"I learned a lot my first year," he said. "I have high expectations. I feel like this has been a slow start -- not only for me but the team."
Even so, Miami got a near triple-double on Saturday from Jimmy Butler, who had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The Heat also got 21 points from Goran Dragic and 18 from Kelly Olynyk.
Next up for the Heat: the Celtics. The last time these teams played, Boston beat Miami 107-105 on Wednesday night as Celtics rookie guard Payton Pritchard scored on a put-back with two-tenths of a second left.
Boston features two of the best scorers in the league in guards Jayson Tatum (26.9 average) and Jaylen Brown (26.3). But they were both among seven Celtics listed on the injury report because of either positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing as a result of being around someone who tested positive.
"Our job is to not make excuses about who's not here," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
It will be interesting to see if Miami has a rebounding advantage due to the Celtics players on the COVID protocol. Then again, Miami entered this weekend 29th in the league in rebounds (41.4 per game). Boston ranked 12th with 45.3.
Boston's frontcourt took a hit on Friday as Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams and Grant Williams all missed the win over the Wizards game due to COVID protocols. They will be out at least seven days.
Still, those missing players could be a factor. Thompson, who has started eight games this season, leads Boston in rebounds (8.5). Robert Williams is averaging 6.5 rebounds. Grant Williams is averaging 3.6 rebounds.
Without those three, Brown crashed the boards on Friday and had a game-high 13 rebounds. That was a season high for Brown, who averages 6.2 rebounds per game.
In addition, 6-6, 240-pound forward Semi Ojeleye grabbed five rebounds as he made his first start of the season and just the 10th of his four-year NBA career.
But probably the most exciting addition to Boston's frontcourt rotation is 7-5, 310-pound Tacko Fall, a second-year pro who grabbed eight rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench against the Wizards. He also scored four points (2-for-3 shooting) and blocked three shots
"I know I belong," Fall said. "The coaches have been on me to stay ready. Now, it's a matter of doing my job on a consistent basis."
However, Boston's backcourt has been getting healthier seemingly by the day over the past week. On Wednesday, Marcus Smart returned from a thumb injury and helped the Celtics defeat the Heat. On Friday night, Jeff Teague returned from an ankle injury as the Celtics defeated the Wizards 116-107.
Miami will be without guard Avery Bradley due to the league's health and safety protocols. Bradley played his first seven NBA seasons with the Celtics (2010-17).
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2021