The Boston Celtics have dealt with a few ups and downs through the start of the 2018-19 NBA season. They’ve put together solid win streaks but also found themselves dropping multiple games in a row. That’s just the nature of the beast that is the grind of the NBA, but as of late the Celtics have been on a roll.
They’ll look to extend a current four-game winning streak when traveling to face the Miami Heat on Thursday in a televised matchup between the two Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics have gotten production across the board this season, and when they’re clicking on all cylinders, are a tough team to beat.
Although Boston began the year as one of the main favorites to win the NBA title, they’ve dropped down a bit and currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. Their 25-15 record is solid, but they’re 4.5 games back of first place. One key issue for the Celtics this season has been mediocre play away from home, as Brad Stevens’ squad has posted a 10-10 mark on the road.
We’re going to take a look at the projected roster and starting lineup for Boston, as well as how this game impacts the current standings.
Celtics Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Heat
*Notates expected starter
C: Al Horford*, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams
PF: Marcus Morris*, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele
SF: Jayson Tatum*, Gordon Hayward
SG: Marcus Smart*, Jaylen Brown, Brad Wanamaker
PG: Kyrie Irving*, Terry Rozier
The Celtics enter this game fairly healthy, barring some mid-day updates. Kyrie Irving, who suffered a scratched cornea to both eyes, has been back for two games now and doesn’t seem to have skipped a beat. Although he’s scored just 17 and 12 points in the two games, both were blowouts in which Boston won by 20-plus points.
One major talking point has been the play of Gordon Hayward, as it seems the 28-year-old is looking more and more like the player we saw prior to the gruesome leg injury. Through the first four games of January, Hayward has averaged 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 58 percent from the field.
The Celtics starting group is playing well and they’re getting production from Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, among others off the bench. If this continues we should see Boston jump up the standings through the second half of the year.
Impact of Celtics vs. Heat on Eastern Conference Standings
Although the Heat has dropped two straight prior to this game, they won eight of 10 prior to help move back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Currently, Miami sits at 19-20 and in the No. 7 spot, but a remain 5.5 games back of Boston and 10 games back of first place.
The Celtics are currently looking to keep pace with both the Indiana Pacers (27-14) and Philadelphia 76ers (27-15) who are just ahead of them in the playoff picture. All three teams have work to do in order to catch the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, who are battling for the top spot in the conference.
As for the Heat, they hold a two-game lead on the first team outside of the playoff picture in the Detroit Pistons. The Charlotte Hornets (19-21) are a half-game behind them while the Brooklyn Nets (21-22) hold a narrow lead on the No. 6 spot. All three teams have work to do in order to catch the upper tier of the East, a group of five teams which includes the Celtics.