Seven is better than eight in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and as of Tuesday afternoon, the Miami Heat owned seed No. 7 and the Celtics held seed No. 8. With Charlotte, Indiana and Brooklyn on their heels, the Celtics can’t really get particular about their seeding in the East. The idea, of course, is simply to make the NBA’s big dance.
Boston (31-39) will host Miami (32-37) Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CSNNE) in what has suddenly become a key battle for both squads.
The Celtics beat the Heat in South Beach, 100-90, back on March 9 while Miami took an 83-75 decision in Boston in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee back on Feb. 1.
The C’s road win over Miami earlier this month was one of the best victories of the season as Isaiah Thomas thrived down the stretch and pumped in 25 points off the bench. Thomas’ injury issues (lower back, elbow) stem back to that game as he fell hard to the floor in the game’s final minutes.
Thomas has missed the last eight games due to the injuries sustained in that game but the Celtics were somehow able to piece together a 5-3 record in his absence.
Several Boston guards have stepped up with Thomas on the shelf as was witnessed in the Celtics’ 110-91 win over the Nets in Brooklyn Monday night. Evan Turner had a triple-double in the C’s victory, with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Avery Bradley led the team in scoring with 20 points.
The way the Celtics have juggled their primary guards in Thomas’ absence has been interesting. For instance, Turner played 27 minutes and scored eight points in the win over the Heat on March 9. Four days later, in a win over Orlando, Turner played 33 minutes and scored 30 points. Since the Oklahoma City game last week, Turner has played at least 30 minutes per game, climaxing with a 40-minute, near-iron man affair Monday in the win over Brooklyn.
Marcus Smart saw his stock soar against Oklahoma City last week as he played 37 minutes and scored 25 points. But in typical rookie fashion, the good times did not last long. He totaled just 10 points two nights later against San Antonio and was ejected from the game for his Ric Flair job on Spurs forward Matt Bonner. After his one-game suspension for the incident (a home loss to Detroit), Smart returned to score just two points in 23 minutes Monday at Brooklyn.