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)


 

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie won't call win vs. Pistons 'payback'

Stars, studs and duds: Kyrie won't call win vs. Pistons 'payback'

Kyrie Irving wouldn’t call Boston’s 91-81 win at Detroit payback, even though the Nov. 27 loss to the Pistons was very much on the mind of him and his teammates.

As he went through the keys to Boston’s win, near the end he said, “just remember what they did to us at home. That was also in the back of our minds.”

Irving added, “I wouldn’t call it payback. It’s just always good when you can respond the way you want to, especially on their home floor just like they did on our home floor. They took care of business. We wanted to come here and take care of business.”

Indeed, beating Detroit was more about bouncing back than payback for Boston which had lost a hard-fought 105-102 game at San Antonio on Friday night.

“In order to continue to build character and an identity for our team,” Irving said. “You have to be able to respond to losses like that with a quick turnaround.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 91-81 win over Detroit.

 

STARS

Aron Baynes

There were others who scored more points and grabbed more rebounds, but it was the play of Baynes that really set the tone for the Celtics’ victory. His ability to not just defend Andre Drummond, but also to provide help against Detroit’s dribble-penetrators and still be in position to protect the rim and rebound, was impressive. He would finish with six points and a season-high 13 rebounds.

Tobias Harris

He began the game getting buckets and didn’t really let up, finishing with a game-high 19 points in part by using his quickness when defended by a bigger defender (Al Horford), or use his strength to bully less physically imposing players (Jaylen Brown).

Al Horford

His inside-outside game offensively was a major key for the Celtics all game. Horford led the Celtics with a near double-double, tallying a team-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds in addition to dishing out six assists.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

It wasn’t a great shooting night for Bradley (12 points, 5-for-16 shooting), but he once again did an impressive job defensively especially against Kyrie Irving (16 points, 4-for-12 shooting).

Anthony Tolliver

Coming off the Pistons bench, Tolliver delivered 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting which was huge for keeping Detroit in the game.

 

DUDS

Andre Drummond

Credit Aron Baynes and company for absolutely taking him out of the game. He missed four of his five shot attempts, and the one that counted was a tip-in that upon seeing the replay looked as though it should have not counted. He led all players with 15 rebounds, but Drummond’s impact was minimal at best which as the Pistons know better than anyone, isn’t enough for them to win.

Reggie Jackson

Boston completely shut Jackson down as the former Boston College star missing all nine of his shot attempts while tallying just two points on a pair of free throws.

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Baynes' play key for Celtics in 91-81 victory over Pistons

Baynes' play key for Celtics in 91-81 victory over Pistons

Aron Baynes was a game-time decision after taking a blow to the stomach against San Antonio on Friday.

He played on Sunday afternoon, and delivered one of his best games of the season which was indeed a kick in the stomach to Detroit whose fourth-quarter comeback efforts came up short in Boston’s 91-81 victory.

Baynes didn't score much (six points), but his defense and rebounding (13 rebounds) would prove pivotal in Boston's win. 

Boston (23-5) got off to a slow start but spent most of the game playing with a lead. Al Horford led the Celtics with 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Kyrie Irving chipped in with 16 points. Tobias Harris led all scorers with 19 points.

But Detroit, among the best comeback teams in the NBA, didn’t go down quietly.

Detroit (14-12), which has now lost six straight, were on the comeback trail with a 12-0 run in the fourth that coincided with the Celtics missing 12 straight shots.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had seen enough when he called a time-out with 4:19 to play and Boston clinging to a 79-75 lead.

Jaylen Brown ended the shot-making slump for Boston with a driving basket to the lane, only for Andre Drummond to get a tip-in – his first points of the game – cut into Boston’s lead.

As Detroit fought back, the Celtics continued to make all the necessary plays which included a 3-pointer by Al Horford and a driving lay-up by Marcus Smart, the latter putting Boston ahead 89-80.

While they were getting it done down the stretch, the player of the game for Boston was easily Aron Baynes.

A game-time decision after taking a blow to the stomach at San Antonio on Friday, Baynes had six points and a season-high 13 rebounds in addition to doing an impressive job in limiting Drummond all game.

Drummond, who had 26 points and 22 rebounds against Boston on Nov. 27, was held to just six points and 15 rebounds.

Detroit opened the game with a 10-4 run, looking to pick up where they left off when the two met on Nov. 27 and the Pistons handed Boston a 118-108 defeat, Boston’s worst loss of the season.

However, the Celtics bounced back with a 11-0 run of their own and continued to play with a lead that slowly but surely, steadily expanded.

Leading 44-37 at the half, Boston scored the first five points of the third – a tip-in by Baynes, a Brown lay-up and a technical free throw by Kyrie Irving after Drummond was whistled for a technical with 10:23 to play in the third.

Boston would spend most of the third quarter milking a double-digit lead, with the quarter ending with the Celtics ahead 73-59 as Terry Rozier drained a 3-pointer that just beat the third quarter horn sounding off.

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