Standings aside, Celtics and Heat more similar than you'd think


BOSTON -- The NBA standings show there's plenty of distance between where the Boston Celtics (26-7) are in the Eastern Conference pecking order, and the Miami Heat (15-15).

While that may be true, the NBA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league which is why despite the overall gap that exists in wins between Boston and Miami, these two teams are a lot closer than you might think when you look at how they have played recently even with both dealing with various injuries.

In the last seven games, the Celtics and Heat have an identical 4-3 record with comparable stats in several categories.

Both teams rank in the top-10 in field goal percentage the last seven games, with the Heat (47.9 percent) and Celtics (47.3 percent) ranking seventh and 10th, respectively.

And while the Celtics still maintain the league’s top defensive rating this season (101.0), they rank 26th in the last seven games with a defensive rating of 109.6. Miami’s defense is trending in the opposite direction. For the season, they rank 14th with a 104.2 defensive rating. But in the last seven games, the Heat’s defensive rating is 102.8 which ranks 7th in the league.  

Those are reasons enough for the Celtics to be on guard heading into tonight’s game against the Heat, better known around these parts as the team that snapped Boston’s 16-game winning streak earlier this season which stands as the fourth-longest stretch of success in franchise history.

In that game, a 104-98 Celtics loss on Nov. 22, Miami led most of the game while getting strong play from its backcourt tandem of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters who had 27 and 26 points, respectively.

“They (Miami Heat) were terrific,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told NBC Sports Boston at that time. “Miami played with incredible pace, with their ability to drive the ball, I thought they put us on our heels most of the night. No question, they deserved to win the game.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.


Tonight’s game against Miami will be the third opponent (Milwaukee and Detroit were the previous two) that the Celtics have faced after losing to earlier in the season. In their rematch with Milwaukee, the Celtics defeated the Bucks by seven points. And in the second face-off against Detroit, Boston won by 10 points.


You can count Al Horford among the Celtics players who didn’t play well when Boston last met Miami and the Heat snapped Boston’s 16-game winning streak. He missed seven of his 10 shots, finishing with seven points, nine rebounds and four assists. But in the first follow-up game against teams that beat the Celtics this season, Horford is averaging 22.5 points, nine rebounds and five assists.


There’s a renewed optimism surrounding Rozier who is coming off his most impactful game of the season, capped off by a steal and game-winning dunk with 1.6 seconds that lifted Boston to a 112-111 win at Indiana on Monday. He had nine points and for the most part played solid basketball at both ends of the floor. Now comes the real challenge … building off that success.


Boston’s Brad Stevens gets lots of credit as one of the NBA’s better coaches, a conversation that should also include Erik Spoelstra. Miami's coach has won with great talent in addition to putting together teams that have been short on superstar talent and yet still competed night-in, night-out similar to another really good head coach on the sidelines during tonight’s game.


Much of the talk following Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign with Boston centered around him picking Boston over Utah, but there was another team very much in the mix – Miami. In fact, the Heat was the first team Hayward met with when he became a free agent on July 1. Hayward eventually signed a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics.

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