Game 4 preview: Celtics look to exploit size advantage

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Game 4 preview: Celtics look to exploit size advantage

BOSTON Size hasn't exactly been a trait associated with the Boston Celtics this season, unless you're talking about something they've been lacking.

But in the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston has had a massive mismatch in the middle with Kevin Garnett and whoever the Miami Heat have trotted out there to guard him.

Not only has Garnett had his way around the basket, but lately he's had help -- lots of it, actually.

And it in Game 3, it resulted in 58 points in the paint -- a ridiculously high number for a team that only has one low-post scorer (Garnett), and he usually spends about as much time on the perimeter as he does in the paint.

"We have the size advantage with Kevin and Brandon Bass," said Paul Pierce. "So the emphasis is to try to get the ball in the paint as much as possible. If they collapse, find our shooters."

But in Friday's win, most of the shooters for Boston were slashing to the basket for layups.

"They were able to get probably the easiest buckets they were able to get all the playoffs," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "And particularly in the paint, at the rim, I think we had playoff highs in layup attempts allowed and points given up in the paint."

The 58 points in the paint scored were the most by the Celtics this year, regular season included.

"So we have to be much tougher in those areas, the effort areas, the big-muscle areas, which we were in the first two games," Spoelstra said.

Not surprisingly, limiting Garnett and the C's overall scoring in the paint was a topic of conversation during the Heat's preparation for Game 4.

"Their penetration, their concerted efforts to get Garnett in the paint, was very damaging to us," said Miami forward Shane Battier. "So we'll have to work, we'll talk a little harder and work easier to limit those points."

Points in the paint will once again be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are few other keys to keep in mind as the C's try and even up the best-of-seven series:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Coming off his free-throw-less Game 3, Miami will look to establish Dwyane Wade early. That'll be a huge departure from what he's done to start the first three games. In those three games, Wade has scored a total of six points in the first quarter. "I'm a patient person," Wade said, "so eventually things will hopefully loosen up and I'll get opportunities where I can attack and get into a rhythm a little more."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Celtics bench vs. Heat bench: Each game in this series has featured the winning team getting a big game by someone off the bench. In Games 1 and 2, it was Miami's Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, respectively, stepping up with strong play. In Boston's Game 3 win, the Celtics got scoring and good defense from Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels. Tonight's game will likely be decided by which second unit makes a greater impact.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo's been putting up unprecedented numbers and Kevin Garnett's contributing with double-doubles, but Ray Allen has steadily moved closer to looking and playing like the Ray Allen of old. He had 13 points in Boston's Game 3 win, which included a one-handed, driving dunk -- the kind of play a guy with a bum right ankle probably isn't going to even try unless he's feeling better. "It was a little surprise," Allen said. "Yeah, feeling pretty good."

STAT TO TRACK: Miami has been one of the best all season at converting turnovers into points, evident by its No. 2 ranking in points off turnovers (17). But the Celtics have kept all three games relatively close because of their ability to limit mistakes and, in turn, minimize the damage they can cause. The C's are only giving up an average of 10 points per game off turnovers in the series, while averaging 11 points per game off turnovers themselves. For the playoffs, they are tied for ninth in that category with 14 points off turnovers per game.

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”