While it’s been a rollercoaster season for the Miami Heat, a team that has shown little consistency, as the playoffs near closer, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens admits he fears playing them during go time.
Prior to the division rivals’ first of two back-to-back matchups on Sunday, Stevens couldn’t deny the Heat are once again finding their rhythm when it matters most.
“You start with [Bam] Adebayo and [Jimmy] Butler,” said Stevens. “When you start thinking who could be off the bench for them in a playoff series, and how many different variations of ways they can play… if they peak and hit at the right time, which it looks like they will, both with their play and with their health, they’re going to be a real handful.”
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“They’re as deep a team as there is in the East, with really good players,” Stevens continued. “They’re obviously exceptionally well-coached. They do a lot of good things.”
As for whether Stevens’ view of the Heat is tinged by last year’s playoff run, during which Miami defeated Boston during the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics’ head coach brushes that off.
“We’re not even thinking about what the teams were like last year,” he said. “That feels like five years ago. Even being in the hotel room last night, from earlier in the year, when the game was cancelled, that felt like two seasons ago. And that has happened during the season for us. We’ve changed quite a bit.”
“I think we’ve really just embraced all the great competition that’s come from this season. It’s been unique. And I think it’s been a great challenge to try to figure this all out.”
Butler’s comments on the Heat’s current trajectory mirror that of Stevens. The five-time All-Star said following Miami’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, “That’s what this whole thing is about, playing your best basketball at the right time. We need to start doing that right now.”
The Outcome of the Heat & Celtics Matchups This Week Will Have Huge Playoff Implications
Whether the Heat wins one, two, or zero games against the Boston Celtics this week will have a huge effect on their playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
Both the Heat and the Celtics are battling for the sixth seed in the upcoming NBA playoffs. Prior to Sunday’s matchup, Miami has a one-game edge over Boston with five games left on both teams’ regular-season schedules.
Both teams are looking to avoid landing with a seventh seed or lower, as those teams will have to participate in the play-in tournament. After the national Mother’s Day game at the TD Garden on May 9, the Celtics and the Heat will remain in Boston to play once more on Tuesday, May 11.
If Miami wins on Sunday and the New York Knicks lose to the Clippers, the Heat will pass New York in the standings. If Miami wins both games in Boston, the Heat can secure a top-6 seed and avoid the play-in round.