Celtics-Heat preview: Bass' improvement big for C's

Celtics-Heat preview: Bass' improvement big for C's
April 12, 2013, 1:00 pm
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MIAMI — Throughout the course of a season, players and coaches are always looking for progress.

If you're talking about the Boston Celtics, arguably the most improved player for them this season has been Brandon Bass.

For starters, he's the only Celtic -- knock on wood -- who has been relatively injury-free all season.

And when you look at where he began the season to where he's at now, his progress is undeniable.

Bass began as a starter, lost his starting job to rookie Jared Sullinger, and then found himself starting again almost by default.

To his credit, he made the most of his second chance and has become an indispensable part of the C's quest to pull off an upset or two in the playoffs later this month, where they will likely begin as a seventh seed.

Known primarily as a pick-and-pop shooter, Bass has expanded his game to being more of a force defensively and on the boards. And that to some degree has opened things up for him offensively.

Before the All-Star break, Bass was averaging 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds while playing 26.4 minutes per game. Since then, he has averaged 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds with his playing time up to 30.2 minutes per game.

"Just continue to want to improve," Bass explained CSNNE.com. "I'm just trying to keep getting better, not thinking about my role or whatever earlier this year; just working on my game and doing all I can to help this team win games."

Bass' play will indeed be a factor in tonight's game against the Heat who already clinched the top record overall and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Here are some other factors that may come into play tonight.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Heat will have their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the floor together for the first time since March 29. Having been together three seasons, James doesn't necessarily believe that the Heat's Big Three need a certain amount of games or time on the floor together to get back into a rhythm. "It helps," James said. "For us it's about health, more importantly. We've taken care of business. One of the benefits of taking care of business is having an opportunity to get some rest. To be back on the floor together tonight will be good; it's going to be fun. But we don't need to be out on the floor in a game situation to know what we can do."

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade: Bradley is coming off a foul-plagued game against the Brooklyn Nets and Deron Williams. His plate will be just as full tonight against Wade, who returns to the Heat lineup after missing the last six games because of right knee soreness.

PLAYER TO WATCH: In the Celtics last meeting against the Heat, Jeff Green (career-high 43 points, 7 rebounds) was arguably the best player on the floor - something you seldom say whenever LeBron James is in the building. Green will get plenty of opportunities to dominate play for the C's with both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce out with ankle soreness tonight.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's ability to defend the 3-point shot will be a huge factor in tonight's game. In the C's two losses to the Heat this season, Miami shot 41.7 percent (15-for-36) from 3-point range. In the Celtics' lone win, the Heat were held to just 21.7 percent (5-for-23) on 3s.