Two teams still in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference get set to do battle once more as things get tense in the final weeks of the regular season. Our Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics predictions take a look at two teams who will feel they should already have that top spot firmly in their grasp.
The Celtics will be hoping to secure a series sweep when these teams take the court for a third time this season, with Boston being comprehensive winners in both previous meetings.
A win for the Celtics would put them level with Miami, but the tiebreaker advantage would come into play in their favor if that were to be how the season ended for these teams.
A win for Miami, however, would prove pivotal as they not only exact some revenge after being blown out twice by Boston, but would very likely rule the Celtics out of contention for that top seed given it would leave them two games back with just six remaining.
Injury Might Derail Boston’s Season
We constantly note the importance of health for teams entering the playoffs and the Boston Celtics have seen the difference a fully healthy roster can make to their fortunes over the course of the regular season.
With that in mind, this team will be all too aware of the hammer blow they’ve been dealt with the news that Robert Williams has suffered a meniscus tear and will remain sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Williams announced himself as a genuine Defensive Player of the Year candidate this season. The rim protection he has offered to this team has been an integral part of why they’re the best team in the league at that end of the floor.
His free-roam role as a help defender has transformed how Boston is able to defend in half-court sets and there’s simply no viable option off the bench that can generate the level of play that Williams does on that end of the floor.
It will be interesting to see how this team adjusts to his absence given he was also the only player capable of playing above the rim for this team on offense. It makes gauging NBA point spreads and predictions for games involving the Celtics difficult, at least until we get a better understanding of what this team is right now.
If the Celtics are unable to find the level of performance we’ve seen from them recently, they’ll not only drop two full games behind Miami for the top seed, but they might turn their attention to falling back into the four seed where they’ll likely face a friendlier playoff matchup.
Miami Looks to Right Ship
The Miami Heat got a much-needed win last time out against Sacramento on their home floor as they look to put a week of internal turmoil behind them.
Losses to an undermanned Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks was then compounded by a blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets. But, with coach Erik Spoelstra returning to the bench for the team, they did look like the well-balanced team we’ve become accustomed to this season in that route of the Kings.
Showing up on the road has been a regular staple for this team and one that needs to be noted for the Heat vs Celtics betting predictions.
As road underdogs against the other top teams in the East this month, the Heat covered as 4½-point underdogs at Milwaukee and 3½-point underdogs at Brooklyn.
This game certainly fits that same mold and should be played with the same level of intensity and urgency from both sides.
With a fairly soft schedule remaining, the Heat can go a long way to putting themselves back in the driver’s seat for the top spot with a win here.
Repercussions Felt Elsewhere
When making the Heat vs Celtics predictions, it’s also worth noting that the ripple effect this will have on the teams around them.
The 76ers could be the biggest beneficiaries with a Miami win as it will give them control of their fate once more to not only make a run for the top spot with an easy run home, but also give them a firm grip on a division title.
A win for the Celtics, however, and the Milwaukee Bucks gain the opportunity to not only jump into the top seed with a win in their next outing, but it will also set up a crucial showdown with the Celtics next week that could ultimately decide seedings for both these sides.
My lean in this one is to side with a Heat team that has shown itself capable of showing up on the road in big games all season long. With their stars healthy, they should be able to keep this close down the stretch, where Boston’s lack of rim protection could truly show itself to be a problematic cause for concern.