The first few days of the regular season were painful - literally and figuratively - for the Boston Celtics, but their turnaround has been impressive. The Celtics look to make it four wins in a row when they cap a quick two-game road trip at the Miami Heat on Saturday.
The loss of Gordon Hayward in the season opener was followed by an eight-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the opener at home for Boston, but it returned the favor with a 96-89 win over the Bucks on Thursday in Milwaukee. Al Horford had his best offensive game of the season with 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting and Kyrie Irving followed suit with a season-high 24 points for the Celtics, who held opponents to an average of 90 points during the winning streak. The Heat are 2-1 thus far on a six-game homestand after dropping a 117-100 decision to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. Miami center Hassan Whiteside (knee) missed three straight games and remains day-to-day.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCS Boston, FS Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (3-2): Aside from Horford and Irving, the rest of the Celtics combined to shoot a woeful 12-for-46 from the floor, but the two stars can credit reserve Marcus Smart for helping to find a way to raise their production. “Al’s a unique player that we have who can dominate from the inside and the outside,” Smart told reporters. “So as a guard it’s our job to get him the ball. If he hits his first two shots you’ve gotta go back to him, so you’ve gotta find ways for him to get the ball. When Kyrie has the ball, he draws so much attention that on the back side, when you set screens, they’re not even paying attention. ... So he found his sweet spot to the corner and Kyrie found him.” Horford made 4-of-5 3-pointers - two during a third-quarter run when Smart set a key screen to free Horford for one and then fed him for another - and is 9-for-16 from beyond the arc over the last three games.
ABOUT THE HEAT (2-2): Rookie forward Bam Adebayo made his first career start in Wednesday’s loss and finished with four points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes, and was part of a crew that allowed the Spurs to shoot 55.3 percent. “We just need to get just a little bit more acquainted with each other,” forward James Johnson (21 points) told reporters of his team, which was a top-5 defensive unit a season ago but has struggled on that end in the early going. “Maybe a little bit more talking, a little bit more eye to communication. The Spurs are a great team and they taught us a lot about ourselves.” Tyler Johnson led the way on the offensive end with 23 points after he was held to single digits in each of the first three contests.
1. Smart returned from a two-game layoff due to an ankle injury and was 2-for-10 against Milwaukee, leaving him with a 28.2 percent mark from the floor for the season.
2. Heat C Kelly Olynyk, who played his first four seasons in Boston before signing with Miami this offseason, is 6-of-11 from 3-point range.
3. The Celtics have won seven consecutive meetings and four in a row in Miami.
PREDICTION: Celtics 104, Heat 99