Celtics-Heat preview: More Rondo in Miami

Celtics-Heat preview: More Rondo in Miami
January 21, 2014, 12:15 pm
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MIAMI — In yet another sign that Rajon Rondo's recovery is going along nicely, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens says he'll likely play a few more minutes tonight against the Miami Heat.

In his first two games back, Rondo has played around 20 minutes per game. Stevens said that he'll be available for 20-25 minutes tonight.

Although more Rondo certainly speeds up the adjustment period for both him and his teammates, the transition period remains a challenge for all involved.

"It still makes it hard for him to find a great rhythm," Stevens said. "But the guys have played well around him for the most part."

Players aren't the only ones getting used to having the four-time All-Star back in the fold, even if it's on a limited basis. Stevens said it's not a huge adjustment for him, "but there are some things that you do, that you add to your book and you take away from your book when he's there because he's such a good passer and playmaker."

Throughout the season, the Celtics players had grown accustomed to playing with Jordan Crawford who has since been traded to Golden State.

Regardless of the challenges having Rondo back present in the short-term, his teammates are excited about his return and look forward to him gradually rounding back into the form they -- and Rondo -- have come to expect.

"It's going to take a little time. We all know that," Boston's Jeff Green told CSNNE.com. "But Rondo's a great player. He'll figure out what he needs to do, and we'll figure out how to work with him and keep getting better as a team."

In other Celtics-related news, Jerryd Bayless (left toe) is out for tonight's game and according to Stevens, is expected to miss 7-10 days with the injury.

Here are some other keys in tonight's game:

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs LeBron James.

Easily the highlight of this season was Green's buzzer-beating three-pointer over the Heat to cap off an impressive 24-point, 5-rebound night. He has been playing with more aggression lately and has made the free throw line his second home of late. For the season, he has averaged 4.4 free throw attempts per game. In Boston's last three games, he has averaged 8.3 free throw attempts per game. Meanwhile, James continues to play at a ridiculously high level even as the Heat struggle (losses in four of last six games). James has scored at least 21 points in all but one game in January, doing so while shooting better than 50 percent from the field in eight of 10 games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Miami is once again among the NBA's worst rebounding teams which bodes well for Jared Sullinger. After a career-night of 25 points and 20 rebounds against Toronto on Jan. 15, he has tallied just 19 points and 15 rebounds in Boston's last two games.

STAT TO TRACK: Teams have been hurting the Celtics of late from three-point range, but the Heat remain a team that's at its best when they are generating offense in the paint. Since January, they have averaged 43.8 points in the paint which ranks 10th in the NBA. Since the start of the New Year, opponents are averaging 40.4 points in the paint against the Celtics which is the eighth-lowest mark in the league. However, part of that success certainly has to do with teams shooting so well against them from three-point range (40.3 percent, the second-highest mark, this month).