BOSTON — Losses in 12 of their last 15 games, including the last five straight, hasn't totally crushed the spirits of the Celtics.
Even with the Heat coming to town tonight, the C's (22-46) remain confident they will give themselves a chance to win and potentially pull off a major upset over Miami (46-19) for the second time this season.
"Everybody's beatable," said Jeff Green, whose one-legged, fadeaway jumper at Miami on Nov. 9 lifted the Celtics to an improbable 111-110 win.
"It's just on us to bring our 'A' game," said Green, who had 24 points in that dramatic win. "We have to come out and play hard."
Effort hasn't been an issue for Boston most of this season.
Execution? That's another matter entirely.
Boston's last three losses were by a total of 13 points, all of which were decided in the game's final minute. But even in those defeats, coach Brad Stevens still sees progress.
"Nobody likes being what our record is," Stevens said. "They're not out there lying down. We've got to keep doing what we're doing to get over the hump."
That's easier said than done, especially against a Heat team that's looking to gain momentum, and potentially home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, with a strong finish to the regular season.
"They're gearing up for another run at a championship," Green said. "And we're trying to continue to win some games to close out the year. They're very beatable. We just have to come ready to play."
Here are some other keys to tonight's game:
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics will have to limit their mistakes because no team makes you pay more for miscues than the Heat. Miami comes into tonight's game averaging a league-best 19.8 points per game off turnovers.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass/Jeff Green vs. LeBron James
James will play both forward positions, so Bass and Green will, at different times, be assigned to guarding him. The best opponents seem to bring out the best in Green, and they don't get any better than the perennial MVP candidate. As for Bass, he's struggled a bit lately in terms of scoring. But his versatility as a defender will be critical for the Celtics to have any shot at winning tonight.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Celtics fans will get a rare glimpse at the backcourt Boston has wanted to have all season with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley both healthy enough to play in the same game. They have only played together in eight games this season, for a total of just 127 minutes.
STAT TO TRACK: Teams that have beaten the Heat this season have done it with the not-so-long ball, better known as the corner 3-pointer. In games lost by Miami, opponents have shot 48.8 percent on corner 3s, which is the second-highest percentage in the NBA. As for the Celtics, corner 3s have been vital to their play in their 22 wins this season. In those games, the Celtics have shot 50.4 percent on corner 3s, which is the highest shooting percentage from that spot on the floor for teams in a victory.