Celtics-Heat preview: Stopping the streak

Celtics-Heat preview: Stopping the streak
March 18, 2013, 9:30 am
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BOSTON -- There's no such thing as an unstoppable NBA player. But LeBron James comes pretty darn close.

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound James has been as dominant a player in the league as we've seen Michael Jordan in his prime.

So as Celtics coach Doc Rivers looks at which players he'll use to defend James, he has come to the conclusion that most of the league's coaches have come to believe.

"I don't think there is a good matchup for LeBron, to be honest," Rivers said. "I just think you have to give him different looks."

That means Paul Pierce will begin the game defending him, but you'll also see Jeff Green face him as well as Brandon Bass.

"We even put Avery (Bradley) on him for a couple of possessions when he brings the ball up the floor," Rivers said. "I just think he's too smart to have one coverage and one man."

Rivers added: "He has a championship swagger now. He's always been the best player. Now he's the best player with confidence, if that makes sense. It makes him great. I'm happy for him. I just want to beat him. I just think he's gone through a lot. He paid his dues, I guess. Now he's a champion. Now it's our job to try and knock that off of him."

How the Celtics deal with James will go far in determining tonight's outcome. Here are some other factors that may come into play as the Celtics look to extend their winning streak at home to 12 straight while the Heat look to move into sole possession of the second-longest winning streak in NBA history if they can beat the C's for consecutive win No. 23.  The NBA record for consecutive wins is 33, set by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1971-1972 season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Despite having lineups filled with high-scoring talent, both of these teams have hedged their bets for success on stout defense. When the two played back in January, the Celtics won 100-98 in double-overtime. Look for points to be hard to come by for both teams once again.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade. Bradley and Wade have been a huge part of their respective team's success of late, with Bradley contributing with his defense and timely shot-making while Wade has been getting it done at both ends of the floor as well.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green is indeed an X-factor for the Celtics. At the very least, Green needs to score in double figures as well as make his presence felt defensively. Although he only had 11 points in Boston's win over the Heat on Jan. 27, the Celtics were plus-6 with him on the floor which was the second-highest plus/minus ratio for any Celtics players (Paul Pierce, plus-8).

STAT TO TRACK:  The Celtics' success since the all-star break has been fueled in part by the increased scoring of the C's bench. For the season, the Celtics rank 15th in the league in bench scoring. But since the break, they are now 10th with a 35.2 bench points scored per game. In the C's triple overtime win against Miami on Jan. 27, Boston's backups outscored Miami's second unit, 39-29.