Celtics-Heat preview: Quest for home court continues

Celtics-Heat preview: Quest for home court continues

BOSTON – For the past couple of weeks, much of the talk surrounding the Boston Celtics has centered on their quest for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

And it will only intensify tonight when the Celtics (47-34) host the Miami Heat (48-33) in the regular season finale that will likely decide who will have the fourth seed and with it, home court advantage in the first round.

For Boston to have the kind of postseason run they’re aiming towards, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is well aware of the need to play well regardless of location.

“I’m not concerning myself with things I can’t control,” Stevens said. “No matter what, in the playoffs you can’t be a dud on the road and expect to win a playoff series. You can’t be good or inconsistent at home and expect to win a series. You have to play well in the games you have.”

While that’s true, there’s no question the Celtics will be disappointed if they have to start the postseason on the road.

“It’s important. We worked so hard. We put a great year together,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “We put ourselves in position to write our own script. We just want to finish the right way, play the right way and go out knowing we did it the way we wanted to go out.”

That’s where things are a little tricky right now for the Celtics who come into the regular season finale against the Heat having lost their last two games.

Making matters worse, the two losses have come on the road at Atlanta and at home against Charlotte – two teams that Boston could potentially see this weekend, in addition to tonight’s Miami Heat team.

“We have to have a short memory and worry about the things we can control,” said Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics have a certain level of concern due to their recent struggles, but have proven repeatedly this season that they can rise to the occasion and knock off any team, anywhere – ask the Golden State Warriors whose 54-game home winning streak was snapped by Boston on April 1.

“Our team, has bitter a taste as we may feel from (losing to Charlotte on Tuesday), has put ourselves in a great positon all year with their play,” Stevens said. “We’ll look forward to playing whoever we play, wherever we play when that time comes.”

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

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Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.


Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

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Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to get a second opinion on his sore left knee which may result in him having season-ending surgery.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti reported on Tuesday that Irving will get a second opinion as early as Wednesday.

Irving suffered a fractured left knee cap during the 2015 NBA Finals.

He underwent surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs.

The surgical procedure performed on his knee involved the insertion of screws to aid the stabilization of the  kneecap.

The Celtics have already been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season due to a left ankle injury. Daniel Theis is out for the season with a torn meniscus injury to his left knee. Marcus Smart recently had right thumb surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, with there being a chance he will return at some point for the playoffs. And Jaylen Brown suffered a concussion that has him sidelined, as well.