Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat: Streak to be Put to the Test

By Eric St. Cyr
Boston Celtics Miami Heat
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA playoffs seemingly get an early start tonight, as the streaking Miami Heat take their talents to visit the steadily-improving Boston Celtics in a much-anticipated matchup.

The season series is tied at one after a double-overtime victory from the Celtics the last time the Heat visited the TD Garden. Shortly after the game, the news broke of Rajon Rondo’s torn ACL, dismal news that caused most to write off the remainder of the Celtics’ season.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. The Celtics have been on a 16-6 run since then, winning 11 games straight when playing at home.

In the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics went in to the series against the Heat short-handed without two of their most important players. If the Celtics have any hope in ending the Heat’s streak, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green will be of vital importance.

Bradley had Dwyane Wade’s number all last season. This was highlighted by a blocked shot that knocked Wade to the floor in a moment of pure distress and aggravation for the Heat. Expect Bradley to come out eager as ever tonight to haunt both Wade and possibly Ray Allen at times.

Tonight’s another big game for Green as he’s going to be key in the Celtics’ game plan for trying to stifle LeBron James, or at least putting in the grinding effort to make his decision-making as difficult as possible.

Although it’s a small sample size, Green has been more than willing to take on the toughest defensive responsibility in today’s game of basketball and with Kevin Garnett still being a game-time decision, expect the Celtics to go small and insert Green into the starting line-up.

Green has already had some convincing success when it comes to defending LeBron in one-on-one situations. He will have his hands full tonight, but he has a nice opportunity to show the rest of the league what he can do against James on national television.

Boston’s best hope to cool off the red-hot Heat tonight will be in limiting the Heat’s ability to shoot from beyond the arc in a comfortable manner. The Heat currently have six players shooting better than 35 percent from beyond the arc, and three players shooting over 40 percent. Courtney Lee becomes an important wild card for the Celtics to utilize in aiding Bradley with some disciplined perimeter defense.

If the Celtics can limit the damage from beyond the arc, they have a great shot at capitalizing on missed opportunities and getting out in transition against the league’s worst-rebounding team.

The Heat are looking unstoppable, but if there’s one team that could mess with them, it’s the Celtics at home with a crowd that should be over-the-top with energy and noise. While the Heat have run away with the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are only 2.5 games out of winning an unexpected Atlantic Division.

Expect Doc Rivers and the Celtics to leave it all on the floor tonight — this is a game they are dying to steal.


Eric St. Cyr Covers The Boston Celtics for Rant Sports. Follow Him on Twitter @ericJsaint

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