BOSTON Knowing the rest of the season will be a Rajon Rondo-less one, the Boston Celtics are going to need players to step up and fill the void.
The first to do so is Jeff Green, whose strong play on Sunday could not have come at a better time as the Celtics squeaked out a 100-98 double overtime win against Miami.
Green had 11 points off the bench, but more important than that, he played a pivotal role in forcing LeBron James into needing a ton of shots to put up LeBron-like numbers.
James had a game-high 34 points but needed 31 shots to do so.
There were times in the game when Doc Rivers would look over at Green and see that he was tired.
"The only coaching advice I had for him was, 'You can't get tired right now,'" Rivers said.
The fact that Rivers could tap into what Green was actually feeling, is a rarity.
Good or bad, winning or losing, Green rarely shows his emotions in the heat of battle.
Often that is seen as him not playing as hard as he should or giving the best effort.
"People outside this locker room, they don't know me," Green said. "What they see on the court, me not being a Kevin Garnett. But I play this game with all effort, all heart. I give it my all.
Green added, "I am emotional. I hate losing. I'm a competitive person. I just don't show it on the exterior."
The solid all-around play of Green was one of the keys to Boston's upset win over the Heat. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game and how they actually played out for the Celtics (21-23) as the C's snapped a season-long six game losing streak with the victory.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: This will be one of the few Miami Heat games in which the build-up isn't centered around LeBron James. Most of the attention leading up to today's game will be on former Celtic Ray Allen returning to the TD Garden for the first time since he left the C's for Miami during the offseason. The Celtics already have an idea of what Allen can do for the Heat. In the season-opener at Miami, Allen came off the Heat bench to score 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting in helping lead Miami to victory.
WHAT WE SAW: Ray Allen had a solid performance in his first game back facing the Celtics, leading all reserves in scoring with 21 points on 7-for-17 shooting.
After the game, Allen acknowledged it as being an emotional game, especially after the video tribute to him on the Jumbotron shortly before he entered the game in the first quarter.
"When you see something like that, you know when I saw it, just all those emotions came streaming back from all the great things we did here," Allen said. "And that's why I say I'll always remember the big games we played in and won, and I always know I'll always be a Celtic in my mind, regardless of what anyone else says."
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade: The Bradley block of D-Wade last year is still one of the better defensive plays the NBA has seen in recent years. But this individual matchup, like most for Boston against Miami, will be a difficult one for the C's to compete with let alone win.
WHAT WE SAW: Bradley made Wade into a high volume shooter as Wade tallied 17 points while needing 20 shots (he made just six) to do so.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee has been coming on strong of late and has earned the right to see more court time. He had 16 points off the Celtics bench against Atlanta despite not playing a single minute in the third quarter which as it turned out, was the C's worst quarter of the game and would ultimately prove to be their undoing.
WHAT WE SAW: Lee did not have a particularly impressive game offensively (4 points, 1-for-7 shooting), but his ability to defend all three perimeter positions at various times was a huge plus for the Celtics in getting the victory.
STAT TO TRACK: Keeping turnovers down will again be a priority for the Celtics. But it takes on even greater importance against a Heat team that's once again one of the best at generating offense off of their opponent's mistakes. Miami averages 18.1 points per game off of turnovers which ranks sixth in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: It was a pretty average night for the Heat's defense which forced the Celtics into turning the ball over 17 times which led to 18 points.