Not much Heat in this win
Celtics prevail on a night of rest
The marquee value was almost nonexistent for the Celtics-Miami Heat game Tuesday night and could be equally low for Boston’s game against Milwaukee Thursday.
But the final week of the regular season could turn out to be far from meaningless for the Celtics, who took a 78-66 victory over the Heat, keeping their hopes alive for home-court advantage for the first round.
Only Paul Pierce among the various future Hall of Famers and perennial All-Stars played Tuesday as Ray Allen (ankle), Kevin Garnett (hip flexor), and Rajon Rondo (back spasms) were held out. Miami stars Chris Bosh (legs), LeBron James (rest), and Dwyane Wade (finger) took the night off.
And the quality of play went south quickly as the game devolved into a mix of a preseason exhibition and NBA Development League contest. The Heat got off to a 17-10 first-quarter lead, despite committing eight turnovers, as the Celtics failed to score in the opening 6:47.
By the final quarter, though, the Celtics found effective combinations and developed some offensive flow, thanks to Marquis Daniels (13 points) and Sasha Pavlovic (game-high 16 points).
“Well, someone had to win the game,’’ Celtic coach Doc Rivers said. “And we did, which was really nice. You know, these games are still important, probably for both teams. We pretty much know our rotation, but someone else is always going to help you in the playoffs and games like this can give you confidence.
“You know it [happens] every year - someone who plays a little bit comes in in the playoffs and has a big game for you.’’
The result gave the Celtics (38-27) a chance to tie their first-round opponent Atlanta (39-26) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics hold a 2-1 season-series edge over the Hawks, who meet the Mavericks Thursday.
“That means a lot,’’ Daniels said of the possibility of opening the playoffs at home Saturday or Sunday. “We get to stay here and we don’t have to travel. We have some of the greatest fans here, so it would be great for us if we can get home-court advantage.’’
It was difficult for both teams to prepare for this game. Rivers hoped to rest Pierce, who insisted on playing to gain a rhythm for the playoffs. But Pierce could not rescue the Celtics from a ragged start, and he struggled, scoring 8 points with six turnovers in 18 minutes.
Regulars Brandon Bass (4-of-8 shooting, 8 points) and Avery Bradley (2 of 10, 8 points) also were out of synch.
“I just kept saying, ‘The quicker we get the starters off the floor the better the chance we have to win the game,’ ’’ Rivers said. “And reason is, because I thought, mentally, it was very challenging for them. I just thought they looked around and they didn’t see anyone out there and they were trying to do more stuff.
“Paul was just - you could see he was struggling, also struggling with spacing, too. I mean, he’s used to Ray and Paul and Kevin and those guys spacing the floor. He spun one time, he should have been by himself and three of our guys were in his way.’’
The Celtics did not lead in this game until Pavlovic’s drive made it 50-48 with 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Pavlovic scored 12 points in the final quarter.
“We’re going to play our guys Thursday,’’ Rivers said. “Especially since they didn’t play [Tuesday] - and I said the other day I thought they were going to play. So, we’ll see. I mean, it would be nice to put some more pressure and force Atlanta to have to win. That would be nice.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.