Game 4 preview: Celtics look to exploit size advantage


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.

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

According to multiple reports, Blake Griffin has opted out of his contract with the Clippers, making him a free agent. 

Griffin is considered one of the top free agents in a class that will also include Utah’s Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have been reported as possible suitors for both players. 

The first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the 28-year-old Griffin is a five-time All-Star, though injuries have limited him over the last three seasons. 

Over 61 games, the 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season. Between numerous injuries and a suspension for hitting a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Griffin was limited to just 31 games in the 2015-16 season. 

Adrian Wojnarowski said recently that Boston’s reception for Clippers teammate Paul Pierce made a very strong impression on Griffin. Though there might not necessarily be a connection between the two, Griffin said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” that Boston is on his Mt. Rushmore of NBA cities.