Watch It! – Heat at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat meet at 8 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

The Implications

Well it all comes down to this. And maybe a couple of other games, too.

Eighty-one games are in the books for the Boston Celtics but their 82nd and final contest of the regular season will decide their postseason seed. The same can be said for their opponent, the Miami Heat.

Boston enters tonight’s game as the East’s fifth seed but can jump up to the fourth seed if all goes well. In order to earn the fourth seed, the Celtics need to win tonight and have the Hawks beat the Wizards.

On the other side of the ball, the Heat have jumped all the way up to the third seed. However, they can fall down to the fifth seed depending on what happens tonight. If the above scenarios fall in place for the Celtics, Miami would drop to fifth. However, if the Heat win, they would secure the third seed in the East.

Good News for Boston

The implications of tonight’s game became clearer after Miami’s win last night in Detroit. That victory by the Heat damaged Boston’s chance of grabbing home-court advantage during the first round, but there is some good news to take out of that game.

That news is simply the fact that Miami played a game last night, and it was close throughout.

The Heat and Pistons battled it out Tuesday night and the game went down to the wire. Miami led by only four points with 1:24 remaining before holding on for a 99-93 victory.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra essentially went with a seven-man rotation, which led to five players logging more than 33 minutes of action. Luol Deng played more than 41 minutes, Josh Richardson played more than 37 minutes, 34-year-old Joe Johnson and Hassan Whiteside each played more than 34 minutes, and 34-year-old Dwyane Wade logged nearly 34 minutes.

Miami is 8-8 this season on the second night of back-to-backs, including two losses, each on the road, in the previous 11 days.

Miami’s Secret Weapon

Many questioned how great of an impact Johnson would be able to make with the Heat after he signed with the team in mid-February. He has done nothing but prove those naysayers wrong.

The swingman has quietly returned to his old self with Miami, scoring an efficient 13.1 points per game while averaging nearly 32 minutes of playing time. He has been lights out from the field since joining the Heat, connecting on 52.2 percent of his field goals and 43.0 percent of his treys.

Johnson has unquestionably been a difference maker for the Heat, one the Celtics will need to give plenty of attention to tonight.

Defend the 3

Boston has surrendered an average of 116.0 PPG over its last two contests. The key to its opposition’s high point totals has been the 3-point line.

Atlanta and Charlotte, each of which downed the Celtics, combined to shoot a whopping 47.7 percent from long distance during those two games. The Hawks connected on 17 of their 33 attempts, while the Hornets made 14 of their 32 treys.

The 3-ball stands as a key to Miami’s offense. During its 48 wins, it made 36.1 percent of its 3-pointers. During its 33 losses, it connected on only 31.2 percent of its 3s.

Thomas’ Turnovers

Isaiah Thomas just hasn’t been himself of late. He did score an average of 16.5 PPG over his last two contests, but he did so while shooting only 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) from the field.

In addition to his shooting struggles, Thomas has also been careless with the ball. He committed four turnovers Saturday night in Atlanta and then coughed the ball up six times during Monday’s loss to Charlotte.

Thomas has been the first to point out that he needs to take care of the ball. It also wouldn’t hurt the C’s if he got back to being the go-to scorer he has been all season long prior to this minor hiccup.

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