Wednesday, March 11, 2009
BOSTON CELTICS @ MIAMI HEAT
It is an interesting game to prepare for tonight, because Boston will be missing two starters and three key reserves against the Heat. Most notable of these absences are forward Kevin Garnett and point guard Rajon Rondo. Garnett has missed 8 straight games and Rondo is sitting for the second straight game. Newly acquired Stephon Marbury started in Rondo's place the other night and had 4 points along with 0 assists. Not the kind of production the Celtics were hoping for when they signed the mercurial star, but they are hoping that is just takes a little time for him to get into game shape and learn the teams system. While 2 major stars are missing tonight for the Celtics, they still have 2 All Stars playing great basketball, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. These 2 will have to carry the load tonight if they are to have a chance against Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat.
Wade is coming off of when of the all time great performances Monday night against the Chicago Bulls and looks to capitalize on that. He did not get much help on the offensive end the other night, except for the 2 rookies, so look for the team to try to get Jermaine O'Neal a lot of looks early. When O'Neal gets in the flow early in the game, he is usually more connected throughout the game. He was ineffective most of the night against Chicago, but did have 2 huge shot blocks in the 4th quarter. Coach Spoelstra needs to find a way to get O'Neal going, because he is a proven offensive commodity that they need to take some of the load off of Wade and Michael Beasley.
While Beasley has been a nice complement to Wade, the team still needs to find a 3rd scorer. There have been times during the season when it has looked like Mario Chalmers or Daquan Cook would be that player, but both are still too prone to mental lapses to be that guy. So the burden falls on O'Neal, and tonight's matchup with the Celtics could be just what he needed. Without Garnett, Glen Davis, or Brian Scalabrine up front, the Celtics are left with Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, and Mikki Moore, all of which are no match for O'Neal. Powe is the best player of the bunch, but he does not have the height to take on O'Neal for most of the game. I would expect that he is going to be matched up with Beasley and Udonis Haslem tonight. Perkins and Moore should be considered nothing more than 12 fouls at this point.
With the Celtics missing so many key players, the Heat might finally have come across a team that they can afford to rest Wade against without fear or a run by the squads second unit. Expect Spoelstra to limit his stars minutes, while trying to get guys like O'Neal, Chalmers, and Cook back into the offensive flow. With the season closing and the battle for the 4th spot in the East heating up, every win is vital. The Heat can ill afford to lose especially to a team so banged up.
Prediction: Heat by 10