Celtics

Stiemsma answers the bell vs. Rockets

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Stiemsma answers the bell vs. Rockets

BOSTON -- With Jermaine ONeal sidelined by a sprained left wrist, the Boston Celtics are shorthanded at the center position. Doc Rivers has shifted Kevin Garnett to the starting five spot, and on Tuesday night, rookie Greg Stiemsma was the first off the bench to sub in for the veteran big man.

Stiemsma checked in with just under seven minutes to play in the first quarter, a change from the late-game minutes he had played in the past when the outcome has already been decided.

Going in, you know with the situation what it is, especially with the bigs, you just never know when you will play, he told CSNNE.com following the Celtics' 97-92 overtime win against the Rockets. Youve got to, from the jump, be into the game, try to get a feel for the flow from the bench, know what were going to early, know what we want to get to over our game plan. Just keep that stuff simple and go with that.

Stiemsma played 13 minutes in the first half, scoring eight point off of 4-for-6 shooting. His season (and career) highs are 13 points and 21 minutes in a win against the Washington Wizards.

Still, he wished he had done more on defense. Stiemsma grabbed only one rebound and did not block a shot.

Ive got to be ready to shoot whenever I go out there, he said. But still, my role hasnt changed. Its block every shot and get every rebound. Tonight the shots were there. Rebounds and stuff were not quite as available. You always want to get more, so I dont know how many I ended up with but I dont think it was enough. It doesnt change. Just got to keep grinding it out.

Stiemsma sees an advantage to playing with the starters, one other than being on the court with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. With so much focused placed on stopping them from scoring, it leaves Stiemsma with opportunities.

With those starters out there, Im so far down on everybodys scouting list that I can kind of hide away or sneak away a little bit and surprise some teams, he said with a laugh. But (Rajon) Rondos going to get guys shots, get guys open all the time, and with them focusing on all the other guys to score, when Im open Ive got to shoot it in order to keep those guys getting open. The shots were there tonight and I took advantage.

After a solid first half, Stiemsma did not play in the remainder of the game. With the team playing a back-to-back game on Wednesday in Philadelphia against the 76ers, Doc Rivers a reason for kept Stiemsma off the court.

Greg was terrific, he said. I was going to go with him in the second half, but I thought we had a good flow so I didnt. Its funny, sometimes youre almost protective of your young guys. You dont want to mess up his good game, in some ways because his confidence it is a game where honestly, Im thinking, Until tomorrow. Hes going to have to play some minutes and his confidence had to be high, and it should be good tomorrow.

Stiemsma has focused on preparation for the moment his name is called. In addition to studying game tape, he is also adjusted his diet, enhanced his conditioning, and gained what he estimates to be eight or ten pounds this season and is up to 240. He says he feels like he is in the best shape of his life.

The experience of a winning game helps, too.

I dont know, I feel like Ive been getting more excited on the bench lately, he said. These close games, I dont know. Theyre fun to watch, fun to be a part of.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

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