Tip: 8 PM Court: Americanairlines Arena Watch it: TNT Hear it: WEEI
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Kane Fitzgerald, Sean Wright
Do we really want to get into the last time these two teams met? Ok, fine… it was the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Celtics had just watched a 7 point halftime lead in Game 7 dwindle to nothing by the end of the third… and then a 13 point blowout in the 4th. The Celtics got 2 bench points (from Ryan Hollins), while the Heat got 19 off the bench from Chris Bosh… who was an inexplicable 3-4 from 3.
Get it to: Rajon Rondo
Despite what Mario Chalmers thinks, The Heat are still weak at the point. With all this time off before the game and two days off before the next one, Rajon will probably play 40+ minutes. A successful preseason at the line will mean Rondo can aggressively attack the basket without worry. He has shooters all over the place to spread the floor, so he should have opportunities to get to the basket. Once the Heat collapse on him, he’ll pick them apart.
Gotta stop: Everyone not named LeBron James
Regular readers know my philosophy when it comes to megastars like LeBron, Kobe, Durant… etc… single cover them, and if they score 50, so be it. If you can hold the rest of the team to less than 50, you should have a chance to win the game.
So I’m content with letting LeBron go 1-on-1 all night long. What I don’t want is him playing point-forward and racking up assists all over the place. Dwyane Wade’s knee still isn’t 100%, so hopefully Courtney Lee can check him fairly effectively. KG on Bosh is always fun. And then it’s up to the rest of the crew to hold tight on their assignments and hopefully they can weather whatever storm LeBron brings.
The Wild Card: Jared Sullinger
The rookie has been doing well this preseason, but how will he respond to the big spotlight of opening night against the champs? If he is unfazed by the moment and he can provide the same level of rebounding and calm, smart play he provided in the preseason, the Celtics will have a very valuable weapon against the Heat’s less-than-stellar second unit.
How we see it goin’ down
It’s ring night, and the Heat will be giddy with excitement over raising the banner. I’m not confident in their ability to block that out and play a game. Meanwhile, the Celtics have been focused on this game for four months, and after a week off from facing NBA opponents, I think they’re itching to face someone not wearing Green.
I think the Celtics come out and throw a big punch to start the game, but Miami will come back to make it close by halftime. After that, it’s a back-and-forth game that the Celtics will take 97-95… after a Ray Allen missed 3 at the buzzer.