BOSTON The Celtics have been on quite a roll lately, winning four straight and six of their last seven.
But beating the likes of Minnesota and Utah, that's one thing.
The Miami Heat? Totally different animal, on all levels.
For starters, it's an Eastern Conference rival, which means there's a chance that these two may cross paths in the postseason.
And then there's the whole old Big Three (Boston), new Big Three (Miami) thing. It doesn't have the kind of hype it did last year, but it's still present.
More than anything, today's game will serve as a measuring stick for both teams.
Miami is seeking to get back to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, and they understand that Boston will likely be one of the teams standing in their way.
Meanwhile, the Celtics believe they are a different, much-improved team from the last time they saw the Heat on Dec. 27. And while the C's current run has been impressive, a win today would indeed throw the Celtics back into the conversation centered around potential teams to come out of the East.
Players for both sides aren't putting too much stock into today's game other than it being one that they both want to win.
But to ignore the ramifications for today's winner, is to ignore the obvious.
The C's feel as though their recent success isn't getting a lot of credit, which they publicly say is cool with them. Privately, they would love to be talked about as one of the NBA's elite teams. Beating Miami today would go a long way in resurrecting those talks.
And the timing of the Heat coming to the Garden could not be any better.
Rajon Rondo is playing some of the best basketball of his career, with his pulse on the team as strong as we've ever seen it.
Paul Pierce is in a nice groove offensively with his jumper, and 3-point shot. To top it off, he's attacking more and being rewarded with free throw attempts.
Kevin Garnett has been the Celtics' most consistent player and has made the shift to the center position a seamless one.
Avery Bradley. Keyon Dooling. Greg Stiemsma. You go down the line, and chances are you'll find a Celtic player coming through with their best play of the year right now.
And when you're playing that well, you ideally want to see how you measure up against the best teams.
Miami qualifies, easily.
Playing well is exactly what the Celtics seek every game. But they're on the kind of roll where great play isn't necessarily required to win -- even against the Heat.
"We're just hanging in there," Rivers said. "We said it early on. I think since all-star break, we haven't played well every night but we're winning some of the games that we don't play well in. We're grinding games out. With all the injuries and everything, the players are giving you all they have. As a coach, I don't know what more I can ask for."