BOSTON With so many players seeing extended minutes, it's a given that mistakes would be higher than usual. That certainly was the case in Boston's 78-66 win over the Miami Heat. Boston, one of the NBA's best at forcing turnovers, had the Heat turn the ball over 25 times.
"It wasn't a pretty game, obviously with twenty-five turnovers," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Boston's defense certainly played a role in the Heat's unusually high number of turnovers. But you can't discount the fact that the Heat were playing without their Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, either.
"Some guys were handling it a little more than they are normally accustomed to," Spoelstra said. "That's not an excuse, though. Some of them were careless ones to just begin the game that kind of got the momentum going in that direction unfortunately. We couldn't recover; it became contagious from there."
And the Celtics weren't that much better in terms of turnovers as they committed 15 which led to 18 points for the Heat.
Indeed, turnovers certainly played a role in the game's outcome. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With both teams resting key guys, bench play becomes essential. Scoring against the Celtics has been difficult for most teams this season. But for playoff-bound clubs, bench scoring has indeed been a luxury that few have enjoyed. This season, the Celtics are giving up just 22.5 bench points to playoff-bound teams which ranks second in the NBA. Miami has one of the NBA's better defenses as well, but opposing benches are getting 31.5 points which ranks 15th in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's bench defense was once again solid, as they limited the Heat's reserves to just 27 points - 11 of which came from James Jones. Meanwhile, the C's second unit played a major role in Tuesday's win, tallying 38 points with Marquis Daniels leading the way with 13.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Udonis Haslem vs. Brandon Bass: Inserting Haslem into the starting lineup gives the Heat some much-needed toughness. However, Bass will be a tough cover for Haslem because of his ability to stretch defenses with his mid-range game. Bass ranks fifth in the NBA in shots taken (273) between 15-19 feet. He's shooting 48.7 percent on those shots, which is better than the four players (Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer and Russell Westbrook) ahead of him.
WHAT WE SAW: This was a matchup that essentially ended with neither player coming out on top. Bass had eight points on 4-of-8 shooting, to go with eight rebounds. Haslem had six points on 3-for-4 shooting, and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Mario Chalmers remains a bit of a mystery in terms of his impact on the Heat. For Miami to have the kind of season they envision, they'll need him to become a more consistent threat both as a scorer and as a playmaker. With Rajon Rondo possibly not playing tonight, this will be Chalmers' chance to shine. But if he struggles against the Celtics' second unit players, the C's will have planted yet another seed of doubt in the Heat's head.
WHAT WE SAW: Chalmers never established himself in this game, finishing with just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting. He had five assists, but turned the ball over three times.
STAT TO TRACK: The Boston Celtics have had their issues on the boards all season, as have the Miami Heat who rank 18th in the league this season while the C's are dead-last. However, it hasn't been as big an issue for the Heat who are giving up a league-low 39.7 rebounds per game. The C's are better at limiting opponents rebounds as well. Opponents are averaging 43.1 rebounds per game against the C's which ranks 21st in the NBA. Rebounding has been a factor in all three meetings between these two teams. In their first matchup on Dec. 27, Boston lost the game and was out-rebounded, 38-28. In the last two games, both wins for the Celtics, they won the battle of the boards 49-47 and 40-34, respectively.
WHAT WE SAW: Rebounding in this one was never really a factor, even with the Heat being plus-six for the game. Winning the battle of the boards usually results in winning hustle categories such as second-chance points and points in the paint. However, Boston had a 42-34 advantage in points in the paint, and the two played to a 10-all tie in second-chance points.