The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat met for the third time this season with Boston winning at home 85-82 Sunday afternoon. The Celtics have now beaten the Heat all three times they’ve faced each other in what is shaping up to be one of the best rivalries in the NBA. Though the Celtics have gone 3-0 against the Heat so far, don’t let the dominant record fool you — these teams are matched extremely closely.
The first meeting between these times was on opening night in the NBA when the Celtics beat the Heat 88-80. Boston was at near full-strength for the game (both O’Neals were active but Kendrick Perkins was not) while Miami was without Mike Miller (insert your joke here about him missing the shot on Sunday). It was also Miami’s first game together with a completely new team while Boston had a veteran bunch coming off a finals appearance.
Ray Allen was a decisive factor in the first two meetings between the teams, going 5-8 on threes in the first game and 7-9 in the second game. He hit a huge three in the final minute of the first meeting that took an 83-80 lead to 86-80 — essentially the difference-maker for Boston. And though the 112-107 final score for the second game between the teams looks close, Boston dominated and was up the entire way. Allen went for 35 while Dwyane Wade was 2-12 letting the Heat down — a similar performance to his 4-16 showing on opening night.
It’s hard to put too much stock into the first two contests between the teams because Miami really had no chance to form an identity and gel until about 20 games into their schedule. The Heat went 15-1 in December, a span in which they won 21 of 22 games. The only game between the two I’d really count was Sunday’s contest, which Miami led at the half. Boston had a strong third quarter and opened up a double-digit lead, but Miami closed the gap and made it a one-possession game the final three minutes. Sunday was a LeBron missed free throw or Mike Miller made three-pointer away from overtime, and it convinces me that these teams are evenly matched.
And for all the talk about Paul Pierce going 0-10 from the field, Dwyane Wade had yet another stinker going 6-17. He’s now shooting 27% against the Celtics in their three games.
I’d like to say that the April 10th matchup between the teams in Miami will say a lot more about where these teams stand, but either of these teams may be resting players when that time comes around. Sunday’s game told me all I need to know about these teams — they’re matched evenly and one play will be able to swing the outcome. Home court will make a big difference in the playoffs.
Finally, I’ll leave you with two stats — the Orlando Magic went 2-0 against the Lakers in the regular season before losing to the Lakers in the finals in five games two seasons ago. Last year, they went 3-1 against the Celtics in the regular season and lost in the playoffs in six games (after falling behind 3-0 in the series). The point is it’s not what you do in the regular season, but what you do in the postseason that counts. Boston of all teams should know that better than anyone else.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise AmendolaGoogle+