Miami Heat can take a huge step towards a playoff spot by winning in Boston, while the home team needs the win to equalize the season series and strengthen their own bid.
The Eastern Conference is more or less settled when it comes to the top five spots, but the final three spots are up for grabs between six teams. Two of them face off in Boston Wednesday night, when the Celtics welcome the Miami Heat.
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The Miami Heat (32-38) won’t have much time to dwell over last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Milwaukee Bucks – they’re slated to take on the team chasing them in the standings, the Boston Celtics (31-39) less than 24 hours later.
The Heat are just one game ahead of the Celtics in the standings as both teams try to hold off the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets and the Brooklyn Nets in the race for the playoffs. Isaiah Thomas, who has missed Boston’s last eight ames, is listed as probable for Wednesday’s showdown.
Boston enters the game with a bit of momentum – after dropping three straight they beat the Nets by 19 on Monday night to right the ship and maintain possession of their playoff spot. Getting Thomas back in addition to Monday’s huge win should have the Celtics feeling pretty good.
Thomas, though, has missed eight straight games – including the last four of the Celtics’ season-high five-game winning streak – after suffering a bruised back against Miami. The Celtics endured a three-game skid before beating Brooklyn 110-91 on Tuesday to move one-half game ahead of Charlotte for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
Boston was 2 1/2 games out of contention heading into the last meeting with the Heat (32-38), who are now one game ahead of the Celtics in seventh.
Coach Brad Stevens believes Thomas will be ready to play in this matchup.
Thomas’ average of 21.7 points in six games against the Heat is his best versus any team in his three-plus NBA seasons. He was still with the Suns for Boston’s first two meetings with Miami, a 100-84 loss Dec. 21 and an 83-75 defeat Feb. 1 that came despite the Heat playing both without Dwyane Wade.
Before the game, Miami is 32-38 while Boston is 31-39, which means that a Boston win will equalize the season series at 2-2 and will make the two teams exactly even in the win-loss columns with 11 games left in the season for both teams