Celtics-Heat preview: What to look for

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Celtics-Heat preview: What to look for

MIAMI Regardless of the team, the game plan for defending the Miami Heat begins and ends with LeBron James.

The game itself will determine which Boston Celtics player has to deal with him down the stretch.

But at the game's onset, Brandon Bass will likely be the one to draw that assignment.

"Being that he's 6-8, 6-9 he can basically do it all," Bass told CSNNE.com. "He's quick, he's explosive. He's a tough cover, man."

In addition to Bass, the C's will also use Jeff Green at times to guard James.

"You have to try and make him work both ends of the floor," Green told CSNNE.com recently. "But it doesn't matter what you do. He's a handful for anybody to deal with. He's the league MVP. That speaks for itself."

Dealing with James will be one of the many keys in determining whether the Boston Celtics can knock off the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in the season opener for both teams.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Injuries forced Boston to go with small lineups more than they would have liked last season. Now, it's being done out of necessity. Even though Boston has the kind of size to go with more traditional lineups, their approach - and most of the NBA for that matter - is to go with your three best frontcourt players and not necessarily your top two forwards and a center. Boston's resurgence after the All-Star break was fueled in part by Kevin Garnett spending more time at center. And the Heat's title run a year ago was aided during the playoffs by head coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to put Chris Bosh - a power forward in the same mold as Garnet - at center.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Ray Allen: It's unlikely they will be matched up against each other tonight, but the friction that developed between them that factored in Allen's decision to leave Boston, makes any chance they are on the floor at the same time a must-see moment.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It has been an emotional year for Jeff Green who will play in his first regular season game in more than a year. His ability to continue showcasing the skills he displayed in the preseason can have a major impact on the outcome from tonight's game.

STAT TO TRACK: Balancing the highs of getting championship rings with the level-headed demeanor needed to win a game, will be a challenge for the Miami Heat tonight. If recent history is any kind of indicator, the odds are stacked in Miami's favor. Since 2000, teams that win NBA championships are 9-3 in the first game of the following season. Among those wins was a 95-90 win by the C's over a Cleveland team that was led by current Heat star LeBron James. Of the three losses, Miami was involved two of them. The first came in 2006 after they won the franchise's first championship and were blown out by the Chicago Bulls. The second time was last season when they opened at then-defending champion Dallas and came away with the win.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge at end of second quarter

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge at end of second quarter

BOSTON –  For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics were hosting a team eager to get off a losing skid.

But a strong surge near the end of the second quarter gave the Celtics a 65-56 halftime lead over Portland which came into the night having lost four straight.

Boston opened with a 12-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder – his second within the game’s first couple minutes.

But the Blazers were being carried by C.J. McCollum, half of the most explosive backcourt in the NBA. His 12 first-quarter points were crucial to keeping the Blazers within 28-26 at the end of the quarter.

McCollum continued to out-perform everyone else on the floor, even Isaiah Thomas who had a quieter than usual first half.

But the 5-foot-9 Thomas continued to make all the plays needed to put the Celtics back on top courtesy of a 12-3 run that put them ahead 57-49 with 1:55 to play in the half.

From there, Boston was able to maintain control of the game.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

While there’s still talk about whether Damian Lillard will be an All-Star this year, McCollum has played well enough to where he’s at least worthy of a mention in the All-Star conversation. He certainly carried Portland in the first half with 26 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

As usual, Thomas drew a considerable amount of attention from the opposing defense. And slowly but surely, he found cracks that he could exploit. At the half, he had 17 points, four assists and three rebounds, one of which was an offensive board that he put-back in for a lay-up.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He put the Celtics on a good path from the outset, knocking down a couple 3’s in the first couple of minutes. He finished the half with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting which included a trio of 3-pointers.

Meyers Leonard

He was 3-for-4 in the first half which included a pair of powerful dunks over Boston’s Jordan Mickey. At the half he had eight points and two rebounds.

 

DUDS

Damian Lillard

It was a rough half for the two-time All-Star, tallying just three points on 1-for-5 shooting. A big part of his problem? Foul trouble. He played just 10 minutes in the first half due in large part to having three personal fouls.