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Celtics look for their 4th straight win and a sweep of the Miami Heat

The Celtics continue their 6 game home stand as they host the Miami Heat, who are a potential playoff matchup. The Celtics are looking for their 4th straight win as well as a 4 game season sweep of the Heat. .

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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Miami Heat (35-37) at Boston Celtics (47-26)
Sunday, March 26, 2017
6:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #74, Home Game #36
TV: CSNNE, FS Sun, NBA-LP 761(DTV)/752(xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 790 The Ticket
TD Garden
Referees: Scott Foster, Derek Richardson, James Williams

The Celtics continue their 6 game home stand as they host the Miami Heat for the 4th and final meeting this season. The Celtics are 3-0 against the Heat so far this season and have won 6 straight against Miami.

The Celtics have won 6 of their last 7 games and 7 of their last 10. They have won 13 of their last 14 at home. They are 26-9 at home while the Heat are 14-21 on the road. The Celtics are looking for their 4th straight win while the Heat are looking to bounce back after a loss to the Raptors on Thursday.

Avery Bradley missed Friday's game with gastroenteritis, which sent him to the hospital. If there is any doubt that the Celtics need Bradley's defense, just look at Devin Booker's game on Friday. Bradley was on the floor with the team for the shoot around and says he will play today.

The Heat will be without Chris Bosh (blood clots), Josh McRoberts (foot), Justise Winslow (shoulder), and Dion Waiters (ankle). Chris Bosh has missed the entire season and the other 3 are listed out for this game. Hassan Whiteside has been dealing with an ankle injury and also stitches in his finger. He is listed as a game time decision but said he expects to play in this game.


As of this writing, the Heat are 8th in the East. They are just 1 game behind the Pacers and could easily slip up to the 7th spot with as well as they are playing. Also, the Celtics are just .5 games out of first and so may end up with the best record in the East even if the Heat stay in 8th. Either way, the Heat are a possible playoff foe and so the Celtics need to get a win here to send a message should they meet in the first round.

Standings Reset
The Wizards beat the Cavs on Saturday to allow the Celtics to climb within 1/2 game of the Cavs for the top spot in the East. That win also moved the 3rd place Wizards to within 2 games of the Celtics for the 2nd spot. The 4th place Raptors beat the Mavericks to move to within 3 games of the Celtics.
Games to Watch: 3/27 Orlando at Toronto, Cleveland at San Antonio

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard

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Isaiah Thomas vs Goran Dragic

Shooting Guard

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Avery Bradley vs Josh Richardson

Small Forward
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Jae Crowder vs Rodney McGruder

Power Forward
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Amir Johnson vs Luke Babbitt

Center
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Al Horford vs Hassan Whiteside



Celtics Reserves
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Jaylen Brown


Injury
Avery Bradley (gastroenteritis) will play

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Reserves
Wayne Ellington
Udonis Haslem
Tyler Johnson
James Johnson
Okaro White
Willie Reed

Injuries
Chris Bosh (blood clots) out
Dion Waiters (ankle) out
Josh McRoberts (foot) out
Justise Winslow (ankle) out
Hassan Whiteside (ankle/hand) game time decision

Coach
Erik Spoelstra

Key Matchups
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Isaiah Thomas vs Goran Dragic
Former teammates match up against each other. Dragic is averaging 20.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists. They certainly know each other and their tendencies and so this should be a good matchup. Dragic scored 27 with 17 assists in the first meeting and 31 points with 7 assists in the second meeting and the Celtics will need to try to keep him from having another big game. On the other hand, Isaiah had 52 the last time these two teams met. Hopefully he's playing well again today.

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Al Horford vs Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside has played very well since coming to the Heat, especially on defense. He is averaging 16.8 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He pulled down 17 rebounds in each of the first two meetings between these two teams. The Celtics will have a tough time scoring inside with Whiteside patrolling the paint. Al will need to pull him away from the basket to open up the paint for the Celtics.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Smart vs Tyler and James Johnnson
The two Johnsons are the Heat's 6th men. Tyler Johnson is averaging 13.7 points, which is the second most for any player without a start this season. James Johnson is averaging 12.3 points, which is the third most in the league for any player without a start. The Celtics, especially Marcus,. will need to defend these players to keep them from having a big game. James Johnson had 22 points in the third meeting between these two teams.

Keys to the Game
Defense

Defense wins games. The Heat have a defensive rating of 104.0 while the Celtics have a defensive rating of 105.3. The Celtics should be capable of much better defense, given the very good individual defenders they have on the team. They must put it together to play tough team defense. The team that is able to lock down on defense will more than likely get the win.

Rebound

The Heat are averaging 43.8 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 42.0 rebounds per game. Crashing the boards will give the Celtics extra possessions as well as keeping the Heat from getting fast breaks and second chance points. However, Hassan Whiteside has been cleaning up on the glass for the Heat and the Celtics will need to work hard to win the rebounding battle. The Celtics are 22-2 when they grab more rebounds than their opponents.

Be Aggressive
The Celtics have to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for jumpers, especially if the jumpers aren't falling. They have to dive for loose balls and be aggressive in crashing the boards. They can't afford to slack off or to allow the Heat to play harder than them. They have to be the team that wants it more. Both of these teams have won by playing hard and so the Celtics have to put out extra effort to play harder.

Play Hard and Focus for 48 Minutes
The starters need to come out and play aggressively from the beginning and the second unit needs to come in and pick up where they leave off. They have to attack the basket and be aggressive on defense for the whole 48 minutes. No letting up. The Heat are giving up the 3nd fewest points in the 4th quarter (24.6) and allowing teams to shoot just 42% in the final period (also 2nd lowest). The Celtics must stay focused through all 4 quarters and not let up, especially if they have a lead.


X-Factors
Home game
- The Celtics are playing in the 4th of 6 straight home games. The Celtics have been playing well at home with a record of 26-9. They need to continue to draw energy from the home crowd and make it difficult for other teams to win at the Garden.

Don't Play to their Record
- The Celtics should not play to the Heat's sub .500 record. They started out 11-30 but since then, have been 25-7 and are one of the hottest teams in the league. If the Celtics underestimate them, they will end up with a loss.

Officiating - As always officiating is an x-factor. Every crew has their own way of calling a game and the Celtics have to adjust to the way it is being called. They may call every little touch foul or let them play and however they call it, it is crucial that the Celtics adapt to it.