Celtics-Heat Game 4 review: C's out-size when it counts

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Celtics-Heat Game 4 review: C's out-size when it counts

BOSTON The Miami Heat made a lineup change, inserting Joel Anthony into the starting lineup in place of Ronny Turiaf.

Anthony certainly provided them a tougher inside presence defensively on Kevin Garnett, in addition to helping them outscore the Celtics 48-38 on points in the paint.

But the Celtics still managed to use their size advantage well enough to win the one category that counts the most - points scored - as Boston edged Miami, 93-91, in overtime.

And that size made an impact offensively when it mattered most, the fourth quarter and overtime.

Those were the only quarters during the game in which the Celtics were not outscored in points in the paint. In the fourth, Boston had a 10-8 advantage and in overtime, they each had two points.

Boston's ability to get timely baskets in the paint was just one of the many keys to their Game 4 win that ties this best-of-seven series at 2-2. Here are other factors outlined earlier, and how those factors actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Coming off a free-throw less Game 3, Miami will look to establish Dwyane Wade early. That'll be a huge departure from what he has done to start the first three games. In those three games, Wade has scored a total of six points in the first quarter. "I'm a patient person, so eventually things will hopefully loosen up and I get opportunities where I can attack and get into a rhythm a little more," Wade said.

WHAT WE SAW: Wade was able to get to the line, converting four of his five free throws as part of his 20 point game. But Wade shot 7-for-22 from the field, and struggled with his shot - and to make an impact - for long stretches all game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Celtics Bench vs. Heat bench: Each game in this series has featured the winning team getting a big game by someone off the bench of the winning team. In Games One and Two, it was Miami's Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, respectively, stepping up with strong play. In Boston's Game 3 win, the Celtics got scoring and good defense from Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels. Tonight's game will likely be decided by which second unit makes a greater impact.
WHAT WE SAW: Even though Miami's second unit had twice (22) as many points as Boston's bench, there was no mistaking that Boston's backups - Keyon Dooling specifically - were game-changers. Dooling had 10 points which included 3-of-4 shooting on 3's. "I just try to help in any category I can," Dooling told CSNNE.com.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Between Rajon Rondo putting up unprecedented numbers and Kevin Garnett's double-doubles, Ray Allen has steadily moved closer to looking and playing like the Ray Allen of old. He had 13 points in Boston's Game Three win which included a one-handed, driving dunk - the kind of play a guy with a bum right ankle probably isn't going to do unless he's feeling pretty good. "It was a little surprise," Allen said. "Yeah, feeling pretty good."

WHAT WE SAW: Ray Allen turned in another strong performance, scoring 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting which included four 3-pointers, the most he has hit in a playoff game this season. "Just my legs, they've gotten better," Allen said.

STAT TO TRACK: Miami has been one of the best all season at converting turnovers into points, evident by them ranking No. 2 in the NBA in points (17) off turnovers. But the Celtics have been able to either win or be relatively close in all three games primarily behind their ability to limit their mistakes and in turn, minimize the damage that they can cause. In three games, the C's are giving up an average of 10 points per game off turnovers. Meanwhile, the Celtics are scoring 11 points per game off turnovers in this series. For the playoffs, they are tied for ninth in that category with 14 points off turnovers per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston turned the ball over 15 times which led to 13 points for the Heat. While it was a factor, it wasn't by any means a game-changer.

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”