|Chris Bosh (right) believes it’s important for the Heat to beat the Celtics before the playoffs. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
Miami needs to get on board
MIAMI — There wasn’t much to say yesterday in the Miami Heat camp, whether that silence was caused by a quiet determination to finally beat the Celtics or just an uncertainty about what to expect when the teams play this afternoon.
Once again, coach Erik Spoelstra claimed the Heat are a different team, as he did Feb. 13 when his club faced the Celtics after losses in the two early-season meetings. And yet, the Heat lost to the banged-up Celtics, 85-82, a game Boston led after an impressive third-quarter run.
Miami is 0 for Boston this season and is likely face the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. For the sanity and confidence for the team, as well as an edge for the No. 2 seed, the Heat would like to post at least one victory in this regular-season series.
“This is a game you’ll remember in the back of your mind during the playoffs,’’ Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “We want to do well. We want to get home-court advantage against them. It’s important to beat them. I think it’s real important to beat them.’’
As much bravado and swagger that has emanated from Heat camp since October, they have yet to beat the Celtics or top-seeded Bulls. A home loss on national television today could set the tone for their playoff performance. Heat doubters have multiplied faster than Charlie Sheen Twitter followers, with dozens of theories as to why they don’t have enough to win an NBA title.
The Heat were expected to cruise to the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, not fighting an aging Celtics team for the second seed. So, there has been a level of disappointment, which has led to this silence.
After practice yesterday, All-Stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James addressed the media together and spoke for barely two minutes, with James especially stone-faced.
Wade downplayed the game’s significance, as if to prevent the possibility of mass hysteria if they lose.
“It’s not like it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals,’’ he said. “It’s another big game for us. We’re going to prepare and focus like we do every other game. Once tomorrow comes, we’ll be ready to play the game. I’m not anxious like I’m not going to sleep tonight. It’s not that big.’’
After being embarrassed Thursday by the Bulls, the Celtics have promised to be focused and ready. The importance of home-court advantage in the second round is unquestioned, but this game may hold more psychological significance for the Heat. They are averaging just 89 points and shooting less than 43 percent this season against the Celtics.
Wade is shooting 26 percent and averaging 13 points below his season average in the three meetings. The Celtics have played brilliant defense against the Heat’s Big Three, forcing James to make a majority of the plays, similar to the Celtics-Cavaliers second-round series last season.
Spoelstra insists the Heat have made the necessary adjustments over the past two months.
“We think our game has improved, we think our game is playoff-ready. I know guys are feeling very confident,’’ he said. “But we’ve got to apply everything tomorrow. They’re a very skilled, veteran team that moves the ball extremely well, so we’ve got to put to it all together.’’
The biggest difference between the Celtics now and when the teams met Feb. 13 is the absence of Kendrick Perkins, who was two weeks back from recovering from ACL surgery and scored 15 points with six rebounds in 31 minutes. He is replaced by the less-imposing Nenad Krstic, with Jeff Green coming off the bench.
The Heat have no intention on taking the new-look Celtics lightly.
“I think they’re still the same,’’ Spoelstra said. “They’re good defensively. They move the ball. There’s always an adjustment period when you add new players. We went through the same thing. But we have respect for what they’re capable of. It doesn’t matter what the Celtics do during the regular season, they have enough veteran guys, their core guys have been together. When they’re healthy and feel right, they can compete with anybody.’’
Said Bosh: “[Perkins] does all those small things that you don’t really notice. He rebounds the ball, but he’s not a guy that’s going to fill up the stat sheet. He’s a guy that uses his fouls. He knew the system very well and he was a key guy for them, so it will be really interesting how much of a difference his absence will make.’’
And the Heat fully expect the Celtics to play with passion and execute well. They don’t view the Celtics as any different, especially since they lost twice to the Celtics twice with Perkins out.
“I don’t know, we haven’t played them,’’ Wade said when asked if the Celtics are different. “We don’t look at Boston at what we see on TV. They don’t play that way against the Miami Heat. So talk to us after the game and we’ll let you know.’’
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.