Heat provide warm-up act for what the Celtics will see in the playoffs


BOSTON -- There are now just four dry runs left before the Boston Celtics get to the main attraction of what this season has always been about - the playoffs. 

And in terms of prepping for the postseason, tonight’s 110-105 win over Miami and a rematch with the same Heat team in 48 hours, serves as the dress rehearsal. 

Facing the same team twice within a 48-hour is the exact kind of quick turnaround the Boston Celtics will see in the playoffs beginning in less than two weeks with their first round likely to be the Indiana Pacers. 

The Heat (38-39) aren’t the Pacers, but they are a scrappy, never-die-until-the-final-horn sounds kind of team that if you think about it, parallels on many levels the identity of the Pacers. 

Boston knows this all too well, which helps to explain how a 23-point lead in the first half was sliced and diced away by the Heat, all the way down to a one-possession game with the Heat having a chance to tie it up with less than two minutes to play. 


With Boston ahead 103-100, Miami’s Dion Waiters launched a 3-pointer that was off the mark. The Celtics soon got a driving lay-up by Kyrie Irving who was fouled on the play. 

His 3-point play put Boston ahead by six, and the Celtics were able to maintain a multi-possession lead for the remainder of the game. 

It was a game fraught with stretches of great play by the Celtics, but also reminded us all just how fragile this Celtics team can be when punched in the mouth and forced to fend off a gritty challenger. 

A blowout win is always a preferred method of defeating a foe. 

But Celtics head coach Brad Stevens found value in how his team had to gut out a win despite jumping out to a commanding lead. 

“We needed to, like, have one of those where things were really going against us and we just found a way, right?” Stevens said. “They keep coming, they’re really hard-playing, they’re really well-coached.”

And they play a ton of zone against the Celtics, something Boston has had mixed results in terms of dealing with this season. 

“We were great in the first half against them,” Stevens said. “Probably the best we’ve played all year against the zone and obviously, been zoned quite a bit by these guys and Brooklyn.”

A big part of beating a zone is ball movement, something that got progressively slower as the game wore on. 

“I thought we just got stagnant against them,” Stevens said. 


And while Boston was able to overcome that stretch of less-than-stellar play, they know all too well that too many lulls like that in the playoffs can spell disaster or worst - a playoff loss. 

As a likely No. 4 or 5 seed, the Celtics don’t have the kind of margin for error that will allow them to endure too many stretches like that and still expect to win in the playoffs. 

Which brings us back to the Miami Heat, a team that has won its last two home games against the Celtics after having lost the previous five. 

Regardless of whether the Celtics begin the postseason at the TD Garden, or on the road in Milwaukee, there will come a time in the playoffs where they will have to win a game on the road if not to stay alive, to potentially close out a series. 

And while Miami won’t be that team in the first round, their style of play along with their recent success at home, makes Wednesday’s game an ideal foe for the Celtics to see where their on-the-road mettle stands.

“We know that they’re going to make adjustments,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “They have a great coach (Erik Spoelstra) over there. They’re still playing for their playoff lives … it gives us another chance to get better, play very physical, competitive basketball that they did tonight.

He added, “We’ll make some adjustments, they’ll make some adjustment and play after that.”

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