Miami Heat (48-33) travel to TD Garden to take on the Boston Celtics (47-34) in game 82 of the NBA regular season tonight (8pm ET on Wednesday on ESPN).
In late February, these teams met in a game to decide which, at least at the time, would take over the higher seed in the East and hold down the position of having home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Well, it’s now come down to the final game of the season and despite it being just over a month since the last one was played, the same thing is on the line.
The Heat hold just a one game lead over the Celtics, that being the difference between the third and fifth seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The last time these two teams met, it was the Boston Celtics who came out on top and in a big way. In the midst of a nine-game home winning streak, the longest such mark in the Brad Stevens’ era, Boston soundly defeated the Heat by a score of 101-89. Dominant in all facets of the game, Boston was led on by Jae Crowder who scored 14 points and had a game high five steals. Jared Sullinger (pictured) also had a big game with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
These two have starred for Boston all season long as they represent just two of the young players that make up Boston’s talented roster. Sullinger and Crowder are in good company in that regard and a large part of why the Celtics are surprisingly among the top of the ranks in the Eastern Conference is because of the youth and vitality Stevens and his team have been able to bring to the table. Against the veteran Heat team, it was this same youth that helped Boston outpace Miami and ultimately defeat them, something they will look to do again this Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Miami was led by Goran Dragic’s 21 points and Dwayne Wade’s 19. The pair of veterans played tough and overall shot well on the night but it wasn’t enough against Boston. In fact, on the night, only Amare Stoudemire, who had just six points and five rebounds, had a plus on the plus/minus scale. He was at +5 and the remaining Heat players, both starters and on the bench ranged from -1 for Dragic to -17 from Hassan Whiteside, who had 15 rebounds, 13 points and a ridiculous eight blocks.
Boston forced 20 turnovers in the game, each one more critical than the last as the Celtics pulled away in the second half. The team also played top notch defense from behind the arc, keeping one of the NBA’s better three point shooting teams to just 1-of-13 on the night.
The Heat didn’t necessarily play a bad game, it was just the Celtics played better.
However, since that game, the fortunes of the two teams have shifted a bit. The Heat would go on to win their next five games with Whiteside playing phenomenally, recording double digit rebounds in almost every contest and even pacing the team in points on more than one occasion. Since the February 27 game, the Heat have gone 16-7 and have surpassed Boston in the standings. This is thanks to Boston stumbling down the stretch.
The Celtics would take their home winning streak to 13 games before losing four in a row and two at home in early March. They have gone 11-9 in their last 20. Again, it’s not that the team has played poorly, it’s just that in this case, Miami has played better.
Our Preview’s Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics Betting Picks
Overall, the Celtics have owned the season series however, winning the first game, the only such one that was played at American Airlines Arena in Miami, by 10 points, thanks to 25 from Avery Bradley. In the game, the Celtics also forced 19 Heat turnovers, six of which came when Wade was handling the ball.
That’s not to mention that Boston has the more favorable path to this game. They are closing out their season at home and will have had the day off on Tuesday following a loss to the Charlotte Hornets Monday night. Miami on the other hand is playing their 17th back-to-back of the season and are challenging a Boston team that is 18-3 at home in their last 21.
While Boston can’t climb to the third seed thanks to the damaging loss against Charlotte, they can fall anywhere from 4th to 6th depending on how the season finishes out. The Heat have the opportunity to fall as well with a loss, or with a win, cement home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Miami is a much improved team ever since picking up Joe Johnson at the trade deadline. He is coming off a 25 point, 10-for-15 shooting night in the Heat’s win against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Justise Winslow’s absence will continue but the team is confident in Dorrell Wright’s ability to replace his production.
As for Boston, production has dipped with leading scorer Isaiah Thomas averaging just 16.5 points over the past two games, both losses, compared to 22.2 on the season. Sullinger has also dropped, going from the 20 points and 12 rebounds posted in a huge upset over the Golden State Warriors to just over seven points and three rebounds in the two losses as well.
Boston needs to get these two going again if they hope not only to win on Wednesday but to have a run in the playoffs as well. Both are more than capable however and against a familiar foe that Boston has dominated this season, that might be the perfect game for it to happen.
Both teams are playing for a lot and both teams are playing well. At the end of the day however, it’s hard to pick against Boston at home or even at all, given they have soundly defeated the Heat in both prior matchups.
- At time of writing this preview there are no odds or spreads from the USA sportsbooks, but for our betting picks prediction take Boston to complete the sweep and enter the postseason in a winning position.