Celtics vs. Heat this time around doesn’t have the same Miami vs. Boston buzz that we’re used to but is still important
The Celtics-Heat rivalry has been strong ever since the self-proclaimed King James decided to famously take his talents to South Beach. Miami had the talent, but Boston had the experience—up until last year when the new big three, donning Miami red, captured the allusive NBA championship and Boston and Miami’s roles were immediately changed. Tonight will most definitely have a different feel with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both sitting for the Celtics (per ESPN) and the Miami Heat will be at full strength—playing James, Wade, and Bosh (per ESPN).
Boston is now the old feisty team who still has the talent to do some damage and is still a team that can come together and look dangerous for stretches, but has been ravished with injuries and has never really played at high levels for any maintained stretch. Conversely, Miami is the juggernaut in the NBA, cruising easily to home-court through the conference finals and managing to sit their big three (and Mario Chalmers) to rest their late season nagging injuries. Hard not to imagine how this season would have panned out had Boston won game seven of the conference finals…
This takes us into the latest Celtics-Heat battle tonight down in Miami. That’s right, Boston is playing Miami tonight and yes—that might have slipped through the cracks when scanning the sports headlines this morning. Even the little Danny Ainge and Pat Riley exchange couldn’t provide media hype around this game as Heat fans (resisting natural impulses for a cheap shot) are most likely treating the rest of the season as a preseason of sorts for the playoffs. Miami has had the Eastern Conference looking for answers for the past three months, and has had the number one seed locked down since their historic 27 game win streak.
The Celtics have been trying to work through the kinks in their probable playoff starting unit, reincorporating the Big Ticket has resulted in a tough win in Washington and a tough loss at Brooklyn where it is obvious Garnett needs to regain his confidence, particularly around the rim. It might be ugly for the Boston side tonight as Bradley and Green are both coming off sub-par performances and the team continues to work through their ball-handling issues, especially with their two vets sitting this one out.
The Heat sat James, Wade, and Bosh (and Haslem!) in their game against Washington on Wednesday, but have chosen to play their full squad tonight. The Heat have earned the right to fill their injury report with players with long-season bumps and bruises– allowing them some rest before postseason tip-off, which makes Spoelstra’s decision to play everyone tonight a bit more peculiar.
Where the story line gets interesting is in the Celtics looking to secure the seven seed and avoid the very team they play on Friday night in the NBA’s second season. The Celtics magic number is at two for locking in that coveted seventh spot, so a win tonight would go a long way for the guys in green. As mediocre as Boston has been playing, the Bucks have matched their efforts losing four of their last five games.
This is de facto play-in game for the Celtics and while it might not have the stars or the implications of the last two Celtics versus Heat games (Rondo injury news and C’s overtime win and Celtics almost break the win streak) Friday night’s game still has some importance in its own B-list kind of way. No one expects Boston to pull this game out, but maybe just maybe, Boston can prove they still have the championship spirit.
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