With nine of their final 10 games against teams with losing records, the Boston Celtics are all but assured of finishing the regular season with the NBA's best record.
The way the Miami Heat have been playing, they're likely to finish with the league's worst.
The Celtics will look to complete their first season sweep of Miami in nine years on Sunday when they host the Heat, who are 44 games behind Boston in the Eastern Conference standings.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston –22.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 185 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on Miami +22.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).
For Boston, the biggest danger might be a letdown after finishing a stretch of seven straight games against playoff contenders. The Celtics went 5-2 during those games, including a pair of 20-point wins in their last two against Phoenix and New Orleans - the only teams they hadn't yet beaten this season.
Sunday's game begins a stretch of five straight against teams among the bottom six in the East. The Celtics still have at least one remaining game against each of the conference's eight worst teams.
A performance similar to Friday's may be difficult to muster. In what Boston point guard Rajon Rondo called a "statement game" against the Western Conference-leading Hornets, the Celtics (57-15) shot nearly 60 percent from the field in a 112-92 win.
Paul Pierce had 27 points and nine assists, Kevin Garnett had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Rondo added 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting, but the Celtics' team defense may have been most impressive. The Hornets managed just 32 points in the second half.
"It always starts with our defense, and that's what we say every game," Pierce said.
They should be able to hold down a Heat team that has averaged just 77.5 points in its last six games, and lost 85-69 at Detroit on Thursday. Miami (13-59) has gone just 2-13 in March, with both wins against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Against the Pistons, Miami's nine players included four rookies and two second-year players. The Heat's five starters in that game are averaging a combined 39.6 points.
"The guys that are out there playing, we have a lot of pride," Heat guard Chris Quinn said. "The only thing we can do is play as hard as possible. We've got 10 or 11 games left, and we've got to leave it all out there."
It's unclear if Heat coach Pat Riley will be in Boston for the game. He left the team Friday and Saturday to scout NCAA tournament games. The Heat have three more losses than Seattle, and will likely have the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery.
Miami lost 92-91 in Boston on Nov. 16, but only two currently active Heat players - former Celtics Ricky Davis and Mark Blount - played in that game. Boston's two wins in Miami have been more comfortable, including a 117-87 victory without Garnett and Ray Allen in the teams' most recent meeting on Jan. 29.
The Celtics, who haven't swept the Heat since going 3-0 against them during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, have only lost one game all season against a team that currently has a losing record. The Heat haven't beaten an opponent that's now over .500 since Dec. 22.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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