Watch It! – Heat at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat meet at 6 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
A Chance to Pull Even at the Top
Did you honestly believe that the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers would be closing out the 2016-17 regular season in a neck-and-neck battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference?
Well, that’s exactly what’s occurring between the two squads with just two and a half weeks remaining before the postseason commences.
Boston has a chance to pull even with the defending NBA champs tonight when it hosts the Miami Heat.
If the Celtics come out on top, they would log their 48th victory of the season, which would be the highest win tally in the East.
Cleveland, at 47-25, has played one less game than Boston (47-26). The Cavs and C’s will face off on April 5 in an all-important Eastern Conference battle.
Heat on Fire
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Celtics have four games prior to their matchup with Cleveland, starting with tonight’s contest against Miami.
Last time the Heat were in the building was Dec. 30, when the Celtics handed them a 117-114 loss. Miami dropped to 10-24 that night, but it has since bounced back in incredible fashion.
The Heat found themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings by mid-January, holding a dismal, 11-30 record. However, they have won 24 of their last 31 games, and are now sitting in eighth place in the East.
Miami Struggling to Serve Without Waiters
One of the keys behind Miami’s surge in the standings has been the breakout play of Dion Waiters.
The Heat, however, will be without Waiters’ service tonight, as he did not travel with the team due to an ankle injury he suffered Mar. 17 against the Timberwolves.
Waiters averaged 18.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game during Miami’s 23-5 stretch from Jan. 17 to the date of his injury. The Heat won nine of those games by 15 points or more.
They have been without their starting shooting guard during the last three contests, however, and have fallen back to their former ways. Miami has dropped two of its last three games, including an 11-point loss last Sunday to Portland and a 17-point defeat Thursday night against Toronto.
Tonight could be even more of a challenge for the Heat, as they take on a Celtics team that has won 13 of its last 14 games at TD Garden.
Another Thomas Torching?
Another obstacle in Miami’s way tonight will be Isaiah Thomas.
Sure, the All-Star point guard’s offensive presence is a challenge for all opponents of the Celtics, but for the Heat, he has been an absolute nightmare to face.
Last time Thomas matched up against Miami on Dec. 30, he went off for a career-high 52 points that included a 9-of-13 performance from beyond the arc.
He scored a franchise-record 29 points during the fourth quarter of that contest, which helped Boston sneak away with a 117-114 win.
Bradley’s Status Up in the Air
Avery Bradley missed Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns after being hospitalized due to an illness. His status for Sunday’s contest against the Heat is currently questionable.
Without Bradley’s defensive presence Friday night, Suns guard Devin Booker erupted for 70 points during a 130-120 loss to the C’s.
It would certainly be beneficial to have Bradley back for tonight’s game as Boston is set to face another high-scoring guard in Goran Dragic, who enters tonight's contest averaging a team-best 20.1 points per game for Miami.