4/1 Game Preview: Heat at Celtics
The Miami Heat will continue fighting for their playoff lives when they travel to face the Boston Celtics in the first game of a home-and-home Monday night.
The Heat (38-38) maintained their grip on the eighth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference with a 100-92 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday. Miami outscored New York 21-13 in the fourth quarter to break a 79-79 tie entering the period and send Dwyane Wade off a winner in his final game at Madison Square Garden.
Wade had 16 points in the contest, receiving a warm reception from the crowd in the first quarter to go with a video tribute. The 16-year veteran came out on the court to thank the fans and got emotional after the video, which featured a touching message from Knicks coach David Fizdale, who was an assistant with Miami from 2008-16.
"As a player, this is your last time and you just want to enjoy it," said Wade, who called Madison Square Garden his favorite place to play outside Miami before the game. "I know the fans stayed around and that was so cool, man, to be able to have that. You expect it at home maybe your last time, but on the road you don't expect that."
The win was key for the Heat, who hold a half-game edge over the Orlando Magic for the eighth spot in the East. The Magic (38-39) bested the Indiana Pacers 121-116 on Saturday in a favor to the Celtics.
Boston (45-32) squeaked past Indiana (45-32) on a buzzer-beating layup by Kyrie Irving on Friday night to claim fourth place in the East by virtue of a 2-1 edge in the teams' regular-season series. The Celtics and Pacers will renew acquaintances again Friday.
Boston had a chance to gain separation Saturday but ultimately fell flat in a 110-96 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Irving (back) missed the game, as did Al Horford (knee), though both were getting rest on the tail end of a back-to-back and should be ready to go against Miami.
" Friday night was a tough game, but every possession all year matters. We haven't been great at times," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the loss. "If we're going to make it anywhere significant, they've all got to matter. I didn't think anybody was on their 'A' game. We'll all need to get better."
The Celtics and Heat have split their first two meetings this season, each winning on their respective home courts. While Miami will travel to Boston on Monday, the Celtics will visit the Heat on Wednesday.
Miami enters Monday's game on a 6-2 run that has the team just a game out from the sixth seed in the crowded East. The Celtics, who have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, are in a 2-5 funk.
"Everyone is going to doubt us because of the year we've had," Boston forward Marcus Morris said. "When the playoffs hit, it's basically a new season. We still have a chance to turn this thing around."
Wade, who will play in his final regular-season game at TD Garden, has averaged 19.7 points in his career against Boston, one of four teams (besides Miami) in the league that he's averaged less than 20 against.
His career includes two playoff series victories over the Celtics during the LeBron James era in Miami, one in which he drew ire from Boston for a foul that led to a freak elbow injury to then-Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.