Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Which Heat team shows up? Will Olynyk make a difference?

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30 teams in 30 days: Which Heat team shows up? Will Olynyk make a difference?

The 2016-2017 campaign was a tale of two seasons for the Miami Heat, with the first half of the season being a nightmarish 11-30 start, followed by a fairy tale run of success in which they did a 180-degree turn and didn’t have their postseason dreams dashed until the very last day of the regular season.

So who are the real Heat?

Miami brass is banking on the latter with the Heat electing to bring back most of the players from last season with the biggest newcomer being former Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk.

The Heat team that you see on the floor this season was not what they were banking on coming away with in the offseason.

When Gordon Hayward elected to sign with the Celtics instead of returning to Utah or joining the Heat, that opened the vault for Miami to bring back Dion Waiters (four years, $52 million) and James Johnson (four years, $60 million) on deals that were significant upgrades on their previous salaries.

Those aren’t the only head-scratching contracts on the Heat payroll.

Miami is still on the books for Tyler Johnson’s four-year, $50 million contract (he signed an offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016 and the Heat matched the offer) which has three years and about $45 million left which means Miami’s core for now is centered around the Tyler and James Johnson (not related), Waiters, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.

A decent group of players, but certainly nothing more than a team that’s fighting for one of the last playoff spots, despite a payroll that’s more indicative of a team with deep playoff run aspirations.

For this thing to work out, someone from among this group will have to emerge and coach Erik Spoelstra will need to do what he tends to do every year which is to get the most out of a roster that remains void of proven All-Star talent.

And this comes at a time when most of the top teams in the East (Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington) were solidifying their core with players with an established track record for success and the benefit of playoff experience.

Miami will look to avoid missing out on the playoffs back-to-back years for the first time since 2002 and 2003.

Look for Miami to once again play a scrappy brand of basketball, with Dragic and Whiteside leading the way.

Dragic, who averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists last season, has put up solid numbers throughout his career but has yet to take his game – or the  Heat as a team for that matter – to a level that would cement his place among the league’s top playmakers.

And while Whiteside has shown steady improvement at center, the 7-footer’s inability to stretch the floor is indeed a concern for Miami, which is why the addition of Olynyk, another 7-footer who is a career 36.8 percent 3-point shooter, was huge for them.

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Kelly Olynyk (Boston)

Key losses: Josh McRoberts (Dallas)

Rookies of note: Bam Adebayo.

Expectations: 42-40 (Third in the Southeast Division, eighth in the East)


 

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

PHILADELPHIA – Despite playing its second straight game without a key rotation player, the Boston Celtics did just enough to get their first win of the season, 102-92, over Philadelphia.

Boston (1-2) was led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 21 points, but it was Shane Larkin's floor game down the stretch that truly catapulted Boston to its first win of the season.

Larkin, who was seeing action in large part because Marcus Smart was out with a left ankle injury, provided a huge spark in the fourth before finishing with 10 points and four assists.

He drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75-all, which was part of an 18-9 Celtics run.

The Sixers (0-2) were led by J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Joel Embiid got off to a slow start, but finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Boston played with a lead for most of the first half, but Philadelphia took over with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter and had the Celtics playing catch-up for all of the third and some of the fourth quarter.

Boston was once again short-handed, with Marcus Smart out with a left ankle injury. He replaced Gordon Hayward, whose left ankle injury in the first quarter of Boston’s loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

But with players out, that opens up opportunities for others to step up.

Larkin, who walked away from a contract overseas that would have paid about $5 million more than he’s making with the Celtics, was one of those players.

Aron Baynes, who got the start with Smart out, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Boston also got another strong game off the bench from Terry Rozier who had 14 points and seven rebounds

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