BOSTON (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – A battle of two teams looking to make some noise in the Eastern Conference Playoffs will battle on Sunday night.
The Boston Celtics are making the most of a critical late-season homestand and look to stay perfect in the stretch when they host the Miami Heat.
The Celtics weathered the storm of a 70-point performance by Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker in a 130-120 win Friday night, improving to 3-0 on their season-high six-game homestand.
The streak has Boston one-half game behind first-place Cleveland in the Eastern Conference entering Saturday, but coach Brad Stevens wants a complete effort from his team after watching Booker make things interesting in the second half.
“We don’t play with enough sustained level of play and that’s pretty consistent for us,” Stevens told reporters. “I’m surprised at where we are record-wise, because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes. We just don’t do it.”
It is possible that Boston could seize the top seed in the East and earn an encounter in the first round of the playoffs with Miami, which sits in eighth place after Thursday’s 101-84 loss to Toronto in the finale of a five-game homestand.
“I think that’s really where you make a name in this league,” center Hassan Whiteside told reporters when discussing the playoff push. “There’s guys I got drafted with that still haven’t played in the playoffs.”
TV: 6 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), CSN New England (Boston)
ABOUT THE HEAT (35-37): Whiteside wants to make the playoffs but he is struggling to get the finish line, first receiving 13 stitches for a cut to his right hand earlier in the week and then spraining his ankle in the loss to the Raptors.
“That was very inspiring just to see him out there battling,” coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters of his big man, whose franchise-record streak of consecutive double-doubles stands at 14. “Most nights a player would not play. The guys even acknowledged it in the locker room.”
Leading scorer Goran Dragic will have to shoulder more of the load if Whiteside is unable to go, and the point guard has been held under 20 points in four straight games, tied for his longest such streak this season.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (47-26): A stomach bug that has been spreading around the team forced guard Avery Bradley to sit out Friday’s win.
Veteran Gerald Green helped pick up some of the slack with 15 points in 13 minutes off the bench, nailing all four of his 3-point tries.
Leading scorer Isaiah Thomas, who had 34 points versus Phoenix, produced a career-high 52 in the previous meeting with Miami – a 117-114 win at home that stretched Boston’s winning streak in the series to six games.
- Dragic is averaging 29 points and 12 assists in two games against Boston this season.
- Celtics PG Marcus Smart was 1-for-13 from the field Friday and is shooting 23.6 percent over a five-game stretch.
- Heat SG Dion Waiters (ankle) has missed three straight games.
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