Celtics-Heat Game 4 review: C's out-size when it counts

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Celtics-Heat Game 4 review: C's out-size when it counts

BOSTON The Miami Heat made a lineup change, inserting Joel Anthony into the starting lineup in place of Ronny Turiaf.

Anthony certainly provided them a tougher inside presence defensively on Kevin Garnett, in addition to helping them outscore the Celtics 48-38 on points in the paint.

But the Celtics still managed to use their size advantage well enough to win the one category that counts the most - points scored - as Boston edged Miami, 93-91, in overtime.

And that size made an impact offensively when it mattered most, the fourth quarter and overtime.

Those were the only quarters during the game in which the Celtics were not outscored in points in the paint. In the fourth, Boston had a 10-8 advantage and in overtime, they each had two points.

Boston's ability to get timely baskets in the paint was just one of the many keys to their Game 4 win that ties this best-of-seven series at 2-2. Here are other factors outlined earlier, and how those factors actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Coming off a free-throw less Game 3, Miami will look to establish Dwyane Wade early. That'll be a huge departure from what he has 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, so eventually things will hopefully loosen up and I get opportunities where I can attack and get into a rhythm a little more," Wade said.

WHAT WE SAW: Wade was able to get to the line, converting four of his five free throws as part of his 20 point game. But Wade shot 7-for-22 from the field, and struggled with his shot - and to make an impact - for long stretches all game.

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 of the winning team. In Games One and Two, 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.
WHAT WE SAW: Even though Miami's second unit had twice (22) as many points as Boston's bench, there was no mistaking that Boston's backups - Keyon Dooling specifically - were game-changers. Dooling had 10 points which included 3-of-4 shooting on 3's. "I just try to help in any category I can," Dooling told CSNNE.com.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Between Rajon Rondo putting up unprecedented numbers and Kevin Garnett's double-doubles, Ray Allen has steadily moved closer to looking and playing like the Ray Allen of old. He had 13 points in Boston's Game Three win which included a one-handed, driving dunk - the kind of play a guy with a bum right ankle probably isn't going to do unless he's feeling pretty good. "It was a little surprise," Allen said. "Yeah, feeling pretty good."

WHAT WE SAW: Ray Allen turned in another strong performance, scoring 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting which included four 3-pointers, the most he has hit in a playoff game this season. "Just my legs, they've gotten better," Allen said.

STAT TO TRACK: Miami has been one of the best all season at converting turnovers into points, evident by them ranking No. 2 in the NBA in points (17) off turnovers. But the Celtics have been able to either win or be relatively close in all three games primarily behind their ability to limit their mistakes and in turn, minimize the damage that they can cause. In three games, the C's are giving up an average of 10 points per game off turnovers. Meanwhile, the Celtics are scoring 11 points per game off turnovers in this series. For the playoffs, they are tied for ninth in that category with 14 points off turnovers per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston turned the ball over 15 times which led to 13 points for the Heat. While it was a factor, it wasn't by any means a game-changer.

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.