Heat, Celtics square off in South Beach

10:01 AM, Apr 10, 2011   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The battle for the second seed in the Eastern Conference will begin this afternoon in downtown Miami, where the Heat will take on the despised Boston Celtics from AmericanAirlines Arena.

Both the Heat and Celtics are locked in at the No. 2 spot in the conference standings with three games remaining in the regular season. Boston, the defending Eastern Conference champion, has beaten Miami three times already this season and looks to sweep the series for a second straight year and for the third time in the past four.

The Celtics have won eight in a row and 14 of the past 15 meetings with the Heat, losers in three straight and seven of eight as the host in this series.

Boston stumbled a bit at the end of March, but has come on strong with three wins in its last four games, including a 104-88 victory over Washington on Friday night. Paul Pierce finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, Rajon Rondo posted 20 points with 14 assists and six steals, and Nenad Krstic scored 17 points for the Atlantic Division-champion Celtics. Boston shot 50.7 percent from the field and got 13 points from Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett added 15 and 11 rebounds in the all-around effort.

"Yeah, that's nice to see," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said regarding all of his starters finishing in double figures. "I thought everyone offensively was pretty good. I think we shot 50 percent; we did. Just a good rhythm for most of the game."

Rivers' squad will also visit the Wizards before closing out the regular season next week versus New York in Beantown. Boston is 23-16 away from TD Garden this season and is still toiling without center Shaquille O'Neal because of a calf strain. O'Neal is not expected to play Sunday.

Miami is enjoying some recent success, having won 12 of its last 15 games to make a run at the second slot in the East. In a 112-103 victory versus Charlotte on Friday night, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh both scored 27 points and LeBron James added 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Heat, who shot 56.5 percent for the game.

Wade was back in action after missing Wednesday's loss to Milwaukee with a thigh injury.

"I was just being aggressive," Wade said. "I did have a little fatigue from being out a couple days. While I am out there I just want to work as hard as possible."

The Southeast Division-champion Heat are 1-1 on a three-game homestand and 29-11 in south Florida this season. They will close out the regular season with back-to-back road games in Atlanta and Toronto.

The Sports Network

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