Celtics-Heat preview: What to look for


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.

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.