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Heat, Celtics hook up
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BOSTON CELTICS (14-28) at MIAMI HEAT (29-12) Line & Total: Miami -9, 197.5

After an unsuccessful road trip, the Heat look to end their struggles on Tuesday evening when they return home to face the slumping Celtics.

Miami has been one of the best defensive teams in the league this season, allowing only 98.8 PPG (9th in NBA), but in its just-completed 2-4 road trip, the club allowed 102+ points in all four defeats. Boston has been atrocious over the past month, losing 14 of 16 games SU and going 5-11 ATS. Before this slide, the team had allowed just 95.8 PPG, but that number has jumped to 103.6 PPG during the 2-14 stretch. This includes going 0-2 (SU and ATS) since getting star PG Rajon Rondo back on the court.

When these teams met earlier in the season on Nov. 9, the Heat were a 13.5-point home favorite but lost 111-110 on a Jeff Green buzzer-beating three pointer. This improved the Celtics record in this series to 12-4 ATS (8-8 SU) over the past three seasons, including 6-3 ATS (3-6 SU) in Miami. The Over is 12-4 (75%) in this series during this three-year timeframe, including 8-1 (89%) in South Beach. This season, Boston is a solid 11-10 ATS (5-16 SU) on the road, while the Heat are a poor 7-12 ATS (16-3 SU) at home. Both teams have favorable betting trends on Tuesday though, with Miami benefitting from the fact that NBA favorites with a 60% to 75% win pct. coming off an upset division loss when favored are 32-8 ATS (80%) in the past five seasons when facing a losing team. However, extremely tired (playing 4th game in 5 days) home teams revenging a loss where the opponent scored 110+ points are a mere 6-28 ATS (18%) over the past five seasons. On the injury front, SF Jeff Green (knee) is probable for Boston, while Jerryd Bayless (toe) is questionable.

The Celtics have been a poor offensive team all season with just 95.2 PPG (25th in NBA) on 43.9% FG (23rd in league) and 33.2% threes (28th in NBA). They are also tallying a subpar 42.7 RPG (21st in league) and a woeful 19.7 APG (28th in NBA), but got a lot of firepower back recently with PG Rajon Rondo returning from a torn ACL. Despite losing both games with Rondo in the lineup, he is averaging 7.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 4.0 RPG and 1.5 SPG in just 20.5 MPG. He will need to use his speed to get into the paint and create shots for his teammates as he will be guarded by a slower player in Mario Chalmers. In the past four meetings he's had with the Heat, Rondo has posted an impressive 54 assists (13.5 APG) and just 16 turnovers (3.4 Ast/TO ratio).

SF Jeff Green (15.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG) hit a game-winner the last time these teams played on Nov. 9, finishing that contest with 23 points (5-of-8 threes) and five boards. Green is also coming off a 22-point performance against the Magic where he shot 15 free throws, and his ability to get into the paint will be a key part of this matchup. Green will also have the nearly impossible defensive assignment of containing LeBron James. PF Jared Sullinger (13.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG) will need to score the basketball as he will be going up against a relatively small frontcourt. Sullinger has averaged just 9.5 PPG over the past two contests and the Celtics will need a lot more out of him. PG Avery Bradley (14.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG) is coming off of an 18-point performance against the Magic, but made just 7-of-21 shots (0-for-5 threes). Bradley is one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA and will be relied upon to shut down Dwyane Wade.

The Heat have been a highly efficient offense all season with 104.2 PPG (7th in NBA) on a league-high 50.6% FG and 37.6% threes (7th in NBA). They have also dished out 23.5 APG (5th in NBA) and rank 11th in the league with a 1.62 Ast/TO ratio. The one weakness continues to be on the boards, as they have the fewest rebounds in the league (36.6 RPG) and the NBA's fourth-worst rebounding margin (minus-3.8 RPG). SG Dwyane Wade (18.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.7 APG) sat out the past two games for Miami with a sore knee, but is expected to give it a go against the Celtics. Wade has dropped 20.7 PPG, 6.1 APG and 4.2 RPG in 32 career games in this series, finishing the Nov. 9 meeting with 18 points and seven assists. SF LeBron James (26.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.3 SPG) has also dominated Boston in his career with 30.1 PPG (50% FG), 6.7 RPG and 6.6 APG in 35 career meetings. This includes a 25-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound effort earlier this season when he made 9-of-13 FG. James continues to play at an MVP level, averaging 29.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 6.7 APG during the six-game road trip his team just wrapped up.

PF Chris Bosh (16.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG) also had a strong road trip, averaging 24.3 PPG (54% FG, 8-of-18 threes), 6.8 RPG and 1.3 BPG over the final four contests. He should have a productive game against the Celtics who lack a strong interior presence defensively, and who have always struggled to guard Bosh who has 18.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG in 37 career meetings against them. Since returning from an Achilles injury, PG Mario Chalmers (9.5 PPG, 5.1 APG, 1.9 SPG) is averaging a solid 12.0 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.3 RPG and 2.3 SPG. He will need to hold his own against Rajon Rondo, who is an elite player when healthy, but he is still not close to 100 percent after returning from a torn ACL.

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