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GAME PREVIEW: Heat begin tough road trip in Boston

Miami faces a red-hot Celtics squad to start a four-game road swing.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Miami Heat Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat (48-28) begin their final, and arguably their toughest, road trip this regular season when they face the Boston Celtics (47-29) tonight in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

Boston has been one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having won 11 of 12 games and 24 of their last 28 games to make a dramatic climb up the Eastern Conference standings since January before 115-112 Monday’s overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors. Playing without four starters on the second night of a back-to-back set, they rested Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum while Al Horford was away from the team for personal reasons. Starting center Robert Williams III, the defensive catalyst behind their late season turnaround is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee.

By contrast the Heat are at the healthiest they’ve been this entire season with just Duncan Robinson, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin listed as questionable — but it would be surprising to see any of them in street clothes tonight in such an important game.

Miami must continue to build on the winning habits they displayed against the Sacramento Kings — and for the most part during the regular season (except of course last week). The level of intensity and focus was back, but also they stopped overthinking their offense and went back to making the extra pass, looking for cutters to the basket, staying aggressive, and playing as a cohesive team with chemistry. Playing against the lowly Kings helped matters, but a solid showing against the Celtics — who most likely won’t be resting Brown or Tatum — would be a confidence booster heading into a tough stretch of road games.

While Max Strus didn’t shoot lights out replacing Robinson in the starting lineup, he arguably provided more productivity overall on both ends with the added bonus of Robinson shooting well off the bench — perhaps with the motivation to prove his worth? Regardless it would appear that coach Erik Spoelstra won’t fix something that isn’t broken and will want to see a bigger sample size with this modified starting lineup. Aside from seldom-used center Luke Kornet, Boston doesn’t have any players measuring over 6’9” so dusting off Omer Yurtseven and seeing what he can provide off the bench would be an intriguing (however unlikely) move by Spoelstra with Williams and possibly Horford out.

ODDS:

  • Heat +5 (-110), Celtics -5 (-110)
  • O/U: 213.5
  • Moneyline: Heat +175, Celtics -210

INACTIVE/INJURIES:

Heat:

  • Caleb Martin (Achilles) - QUESTIONABLE
  • Duncan Robinson - QUESTIONABLE
  • Gabe Vincent (toe) - QUESTIONABLE
  • Mychal Mulder (G-League) - OUT
  • Javonte Smart (G-League) - OUT

Celtics:

  • Al Horford: day to day (personal)
  • Jaylen Brown: day to day (knee)
  • Robert Williams III: out (knee)
  • Jayson Tatum: day to day (knee)

PROJECTED STARTERS:

Miami:

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: Max Strus

SF: Jimmy Butler

PF: P.J. Tucker

C: Bam Adebayo

Boston:

PG: Marcus Smart

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Jayson Tatum

PF: Grant Williams

C: Al Horford

BROADCAST INFO:

TV: ESPN, Bally Sports Sun, NBA League Pass

TIME: 7:30 p.m. ET

RADIO: The Ticket 790AM, 98.5 The Sports Hub & The HEAT Radio Network (Jason Jackson, Ruth Riley Hunter)

SPANISH RADIO: WAQI 710AM & The HEAT Spanish Radio Network (José Pañeda, Joe Pujala)

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