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Celtics look to continue dominance over Heat
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat are looking for payback.
The Heat (2-2) play host to the Boston Celtics (3-2) on Saturday night, and there is interesting history between the two teams.
Boston has won seven straight games against Miami, including their past four times invading AmericanAirlines Arena. The Celtics swept last season's series, 4-0.
This past offseason, Boston beat Miami again by signing forward Gordon Hayward, a player the Heat coveted as their No. 1 target in free agency. However, Hayward broke his leg on opening night and is out for the season.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens told ESPN Boston that he expects Hayward to be back in the team environment next week so that he can be actively engaged as a mentor.
"We're going to throw him different assignments that we're working on as a staff," Stevens said. "We want him to give our younger players his insight."
Meanwhile, Miami did score one victory, in a sense, signing former Celtics power forward Kelly Olynyk as a free agent this past summer. This will be Olynyk's first game against the only pro team he had ever known prior to this season.
So far, Olynyk has delivered as expected. He is averaging 9.5 points, which is also his five-season career norm. His rebounds are slightly up from last season, from 4.8 to 6.5, and his assists are also on pace for a career high at 3.0.
Olynyk is getting increased playing time due to the absence of injured center Hassan Whiteside, who is expected to miss his fourth straight game due to a bruised knee.
Heat president Pat Riley, who was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions on Thursday, said it is too early to assess his team.
"Let's get Hassan back," Riley said told The Miami Herald. "That (injury) was sort of a bummer."
The Celtics have their own injury issues. Aside from Hayward, forward Marcus Morris (knee) has yet to play this season, although he could return early next week.
Boston center Aron Baynes (right elbow) is also banged up. He played all five games this season, starting twice, but he is questionable for Saturday's game.
That leaves some interesting matchups for Saturday's contest, including Boston point guard Kyrie Irving (20.8 scoring average, 6.2 assists) against Miami counterpart Goran Dragic (19.8 points, 4.0 assists).
In the post, the Heat will rely on the 7-foot, 240-pound Olynyk, 6-9, 250-pound James Johnson (13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds) and 6-10, 245-pound rookie Bam Adebayo (2.0 points, 4.0 rebounds).
Boston will counter primarily with 6-10, 245-pound Al Horford, who is averaging 15.8 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Finally, on the wings, Miami boasts emerging talent Josh Richardson, veteran scorer Dion Waiters, defensive-minded Justise Winslow, three-point shooter Wayne Ellington and combo guard Tyler Johnson.
Boston's wings include two of the bright young stars of the game in 19-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum, who is 6-8; and second-year pro Jaylen Brown, 21, who is 6-7. They combine to average 31 points per game. Brown was the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, out of Cal. Tatum was the third overall pick this year, out of Duke.
Two more players the Celtics have drafted in the first round -- 23-year-old guards Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier -- are more proof of the stable of young and talented players on the Boston roster. They combine to average nearly 21 points per game.
And given the absence of players such as Hayward and Whiteside, look for both teams to go small and bomb away from three-point range. Stevens and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra both love "position-less basketball," and even the big men on these teams can shoot.
Updated October 27, 2017