Rajon Rondo will head to South Beach for his third game of the 2013-14 season on Tuesday when the Boston Celtics (14-28) take on the Miami Heat (29-12).
The first meeting of the season between these two Eastern Conference foes on Nov. 9 ended in thrilling fashion at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Celtics found themselves down by two (110-108) with only 0.6 seconds remaining in the game. On the final play, Gerald Wallace threw a beautiful crosscourt inbounds pass to Jeff Green, who got free from LeBron James and sank a fadeaway corner three for the game-winner as time expired.
Green said after the win, “I have confidence in every shot I have. When it left, I had a good feeling it would go in. It went in,” per the Associated Press (via ESPN). He finished with 24 points and five rebounds in the win, while LeBron James led the way for Miami with 25 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
These two franchises have quite a history together, having met in the postseason in 2010-11 and 2011-12 (the Heat won each series).
Boston is no longer the playoff contender it once was, but the team has played at a respectable level under head coach Brad Stevens with a questionable level of talent.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the television schedule, injury report, highlight some key players and predict a winner.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Watch: NBA TV
Celtics Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
PG Jerryd Bayless, Questionable, Toe
Heat Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
SG Dwyane Wade, Probable, Knee (missed past two games, remains day-to-day)
PF/C Chris Andersen, Questionable, Knee
Celtics Player to Watch: Rajon Rondo
The Celtics and Heat have battled quite a few times over the years. Both spent the same period of time as playoff (and even championship) contenders. As a result, Rondo has played several games against Miami and has compiled an impressive resume in the process.
Since the 2010-11 season when LBJ first joined the Heat, Rondo has played 20 games (regular season and playoffs) against Miami. In those 20, the Celts have a 9-11 record, and Rondo is averaging 15.1 points, 11 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game.
The floor general’s best game against the Heat, however, occurred in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.
In the Game 2 overtime loss, Rondo put on a transcendent performance. He played all 53 minutes, scored a career-high 44 points on 16-of-24 shooting (66.7 percent), drained both of his three-point attempts, made 10-of-12 free throws and added 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals.
In two appearances this year since his return on Jan. 17 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Rondo is averaging seven points, four rebounds and four assists while playing with a minutes cap.
He’ll likely still have his court time limited against Miami as he continues to knock the rust off, but Rondo is always a key player to watch in high-profile games.
Heat Player to Watch: LeBron James
While Rondo posted arguably the best game of his NBA career against Miami in the 2012 playoffs, James got the last laugh by leading the Heat past Boston and into the NBA Finals.
Down 3-2 in the series and facing elimination on the road, King James refused to lose. He scored 45 points in 45 minutes (on an absurd 19-of-26 shooting) to go with 15 rebounds and five assists. The Heat went on to win Game 6 handily, 98-79. They won Game 7 in Miami 101-88 behind a 31-point, 12-rebound effort from the four-time MVP.
In 2013-14, James is averaging 26 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists to go with a PER of 29.09—second in the NBA behind Kevin Durant.
He’s led Miami to a 29-12 record even though D-Wade has sat out 10 games this season in order to rest his sore knees.
As long as James and Co. don’t take the Celtics for granted by underestimating them, they should be able to pull off the victory.
Key Matchup: LeBron James vs. Jeff Green
Here’s how the matchup between these two forwards panned out in their first and only meeting of the 2013-14 season:
|LeBron James vs. Jeff Green Nov. 9, 2013:|
|LeBron James||9-of-13 shooting||25 points||10 assists||eight rebounds|
|Jeff Green||8-of-16 shooting||24 points||one assist||five rebounds|
Green led his team to the W by draining a clutch three-pointer at the buzzer.
If those stats tell any story, it's that James should have asserted himself more on offense. While he did dish out 10 assists in the game, he also turned the ball over five times. He had his way with Boston in terms of scoring the ball (25 points on 9-of-13 shooting), so he probably should have kept pushing the envelope to put the game out of reach.
Instead, the Celtics kept it close and had a chance to win with less than a second remaining. As it turns out, that's all they needed.
Look for these two guys to battle it out on both ends of the court.
It's no secret that Heat are a vastly superior team when compared with the Celtics. With that said, they dropped the first matchup with Boston earlier this season and lost the first game of their back-to-back Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, 121-114.
Nevertheless, I don't believe Miami will underestimate the Celtics again this time around—especially if Wade plays after two games off. I expect Miami will put away Boston early, allow a couple of runs and eventually hold on for the win.
The C's rank 26th in points per game (95.2), while the Heat entered Monday night's contest against the Hawks ranked eighth by scoring 104 points per contest. In the end, the better offensive team will win out.
Heat 101 - Celtics 90