Heat show tough skin in likely preview with Celts


Heat show tough skin in likely preview with Celts

By A.Sherrod Blakely

MIAMI If the playoffs go as expected, there's a very good chance the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics will see each other in the second round of the playoffs. Even though Boston won the head-to-head series, more stock will surely be put in the way Miami manhandled the Celtics, 100-77, on Sunday.

Aside from the first six or seven minutes, this game was all Miami.

Not only did the Heat emerge victorious, but they showed something that so many questioned even existed when they took the floor with the Celtics -- toughness.

You can sift through all the stats you want.

Miami won the battle on the boards (44-26). The Heat forced more turnovers (19 to 18), which led to more points (17 to 11). Miami also outscored the C's in second-chance points (18-3) and fast-break points (12-3).

But more than anything else, the Heat hit a level of toughness that no one -- especially not the Celtics -- could have saw coming.

And toughness isn't about pushing guys around or knocking them on their keister.

We're talking about mental toughness, the kind that allowed the Heat to fall behind 8-zip and not panic.

We're talking about the kind of mental toughness that allowed Miami to witness its 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter be cut to just 10 points, only to push it back to a 23-point win.

Anyone who knows Kevin Garnett is aware that he's not one to praise teams and players just for the sake of praising them.

His thoughts on the Heat after Sunday's game show a man who doesn't see this team with the same lens as he did prior to the loss.

"They showed some resilience when we took the lead," Garnett said. "They were able to take the punch. The things that they've been through throughout the year, it seems as though they have gathered some tough skin and figured out a way to show resilience and play through tough times, and it showed on Sunday. They took the first punch and never looked back."

Said Dwyane Wade: "Today we proved that we are a much better team than we showed in the previous three games against Boston."

Wade and LeBron James spent more time than usual breaking down video of the Celtics, looking for ways to reverse the Celtics' dominance over them this season.

"The Celtics do a great job of trying to keep you out of the paint, and we know when we drive they pack the paint a lot," said Wade. "We needed to get guys open looks, and we both did that."

And while the Heat certainly look to be in good shape to clinch the No. 2 seed in the East, a Miami loss in one of its last two games -- at Atlanta and at Toronto, respectively -- coupled with Boston wins over Washington and New York, will result in the Celtics being the No. 2 seed.

That's why the mood among the Heat players was tempered after what was arguably Miami's biggest win of the year.

"This game means nothing if we don't come out against Atlanta and play with the same aggression and intensity," James said. "We have to understand that we have no time to look back."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics are about to hit one of the toughest stretches of the season and they’ll have to do it for at least one more game without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
Thomas, who suffered a right groin injury on Monday against the Houston Rockets, did not play on Wednesday against Orlando and said that he will not play in Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. 
“It’s day to day. I want to play. I want to be out there but it’s the smart decision to hold out and wait until it’s 100 percent,” Thomas said during a Season of Giving event for children of the Military Friends Foundation held at the Celtics’ practice facility. “If it was a playoff game I would be out there for sure.”
However, after consulting with a number of medical personnel, Thomas decided the best thing for him and the Celtics was to sit out Friday’s game which, along with Wednesday in Orlando, will be the first two he has missed since the 2014-2015 season. 
Thomas said there’s no specific timetable for his return, but he said he is planning to travel with the team to Oklahoma City for their matchup against the Thunder on Sunday. 
“It’s eating me a live to sit, but I have to do what’s best for my body, I have to do what’s best for this team,” Thomas said. “I need to be 100 percent healthy to give this team what I can give them.”
The Celtics are hoping for similar success they had Wednesday in Orlando (a 117-87 victory) on Friday against Toronto.
“They played a hell of a game last night,” Thomas said. “They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
The fact that Thomas intends to travel with the team is a good sign that the groin injury isn’t too serious. 
If he doesn’t play at Oklahoma City, that likely means he’ll return to action on Wednesday at San Antonio. 
“I’m going to do what I can to get back out there on the court,” Thomas said. “I gotta be smart about this. I don’t want this to linger on this season.”
Replacing Smart in the lineup against Toronto will most likely be Marcus Smart. 
Smart, who has been a replacement starter at small forward and point guard this season, had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Magic.