Celtics-Heat preview: Watch Bradley vs. Allen

Celtics-Heat preview: Watch Bradley vs. Allen
November 9, 2013, 1:15 pm
Share This Post

The basketball gods truly have a sense of humor when it comes to the scheduling of some games.

Any team facing the two-time NBA champion Miami Heat will have their hands full. But for a young team like the Boston Celtics to face the Heat on the second leg of a back-to-back set of games? And that game coming at the tail end of a five-games-in-seven-nights stretch?

That could easily be construed as cruel and unusual punishment.

For the Celtics, this game will arguably be more challenging mentally than physically.

"Every game challenges you somewhat mentally," Celtics guard Courtney Lee told CSNNE.com. "During this stretch, you just have to take care of yourself and do what you can to be ready to go, mentally and physically."

And that might be the greatest testament to the job Brad Stevens has done so far as the Celtics' head coach.

Despite having a roster that does not seamlessly fit together, which has many players in roles that don't necessarily play to their strengths, he has managed to get these players to compete every night.

Boston has a 2-4 record despite having a lead in the fourth quarter of every game this season.

They come in with back-to-back wins, showing the world what happens when you bring competitive drive to the altar of success and pair it with late-game execution.

It gives them a chance to exceed the expectations of others while positioning themselves to win games which at the end of the day is what players truly want to do.

For the Celtics, facing the Heat so quickly might not be such a bad thing. It doesn't allow them too much time to relish Friday night's 91-89 victory over Orlando which had won three in a row before Boston beat them.

"It's a whole new game (tonight)," Celtics guard Jordan Crawford told reporters after the win over the Magic.

And with that new game, another potential punchline for the basketball gods.

Here are a few more keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With a starting five that seems to be working, Boston's second unit has settled into roles that have proved vital to the Celtics' success of late. They come into tonight's game having outscored their backup brethren in each of the last four games.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Ray Allen. Bradley's emergence cost Allen his starting job in Boston, so this is always going to be a must-see matchup when these two teams play. And with Jordan Crawford now in the starting lineup for the Celtics, this will allow Bradley to play defense more freely and not concern himself with getting his teammates in the right sets. All of the usual point-guard responsibilities now fall upon the shoulders of Crawford.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Duh? It's Shane Battier who is ... no, it's not really Shane Battier. It's the guy everybody watches when they watch the Heat play: LeBron James. The team got off to a slower-than-expected start but has reeled off three straight wins. Meanwhile, James is averaging 24.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. Great numbers for most players, but not James. The scoring and rebound averages would be the lowest for James since his rookie season. Yup. The dude is that good, people!

STAT TO TRACK: It will seem just like old times with Miami's impressive offense against a surprisingly solid Celtics defense. During its current three-game winning streak, the Heat's offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) is 111.7 which is tops among all NBA teams during that span. The Celtics counter with a two-game winning streak in which their defensive rating in that span has been 88.6 which is second to just Golden State (84.2).