Bill Simmons took a shot at Dwyane Wade on Twitter, and Wade had a response

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) and Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) getting ready to rebound in game seven of the NBA Eastern Conference finals at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday. (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)

MIAMI — If the regular season ended Wednesday afternoon, the seventh-seeded Heat would face the second-seeded Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Of course, there are three weeks remaining before the playoffs begin. But just the possibility of a Miami-Boston matchup has already drawn the attention of some, like Bill Simmons.

Simmons, a sports columnist who is known to be a Boston fan and is the founder of The Ringer, tweeted Wednesday: “I’m already getting emotionally prepared for a Miami/Boston series with no Kyrie and no Smart plus the unknown Celtic that Dwayne Wade is going to *accidentally* injure.

The jab at Wade is a reference to the 2011 playoffs, when Wade caused Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo to dislocate his left elbow in a scramble for a loose ball during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Wade saw the tweet and had a four-word response

“It may be you,” Wade tweeted at Simmons with an emoji of a man shrugging.

Simmons replied: “I’m going to put on an elbow brace now just in case you aren’t kidding.”

While a Heat-Celtics matchup in the first round is very possible, the standings could change over the final few weeks of the regular season. No. 7 Miami entered Wednesday one-half game ahead of No. 8 Milwaukee, and two games behind No. 6 Philadelphia, 2.5 games behind No. 5 Washington and three games behind No. 4 Indiana.

[Kelly Olynyk reacts to Denver coach Michael Malone saying the Heat big man, ‘traveled all over the place’]

[Erik Spoelstra would like the Heat locker room to be a Stat Sheet-Free Zone]

[Heat injury update: Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside definitely out for Knicks game]

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How intense were Heat’s practices leading up to win vs. Celtics? Dragic called them ‘toughest practices’ in his career

MIAMI — The Heat aren’t a team that let practice days go to waste.

Miami has built a reputation over the years for its long and grueling practice sessions. But the level of intensity in this week’s practices leading up to Wednesday’s critical 104-98 win over the Celtics even caught Heat players by surprise.

“Brutal, man,” center Hassan Whiteside said after Wednesday’s victory. “Coach was working us hard. They were brutal, brutal practices. Hard.” Continue reading “How intense were Heat’s practices leading up to win vs. Celtics? Dragic called them ‘toughest practices’ in his career”

Five takeaways: Behind clutch shooting from Dion Waiters, Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

Miami’s Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington and James Johnson react during the second half of the Heat’s 104-98 home victory over Boston Wednesday. Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI – The Miami Heat knew what was at stake, despite the season being just six weeks old.

After a listless, frustrating effort at home against the Pacers on Sunday, the Heat spent three days  soul searching. Tri-captain James Johnson said the Heat were in “code red” for Wednesday’s game against the streaking Boston Celtics.

And they responded.

Miami watched an 18-point lead cut to one in the final minutes before Dion Waiters took over and scored eight of Miami’s next 10 points to spark a 104-98 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The victory snaps Boston’s winning streak at 16 games. The Celtics (16-3) had not lost after starting the season 0-2.

“I don’t even care about the result right now,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s all about behavior and habits. Guys really brought a purity to the work, a focus, a discipline the past two days. Obviously this is a very good basketball team that we beat but it had nothing to do with that right now. It’s all about our behavior, our habits and our consistency before you even got to the final result.”

The Heat (8-9) were led by Goran Dragic’s 27 points. Waiters finished with 26, including eight points in the final 2:56.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 23 points.

Here are our five takeaways:

Streak busters: Miami snapped two long streaks with its victory over Boston, but it wasn’t easy. The Celtics entered the game having won 16 in a row, the fourth longest winning streak in franchise history, and having defeated the Heat eight consecutive times. The last Heat victory over Boston was March 25, 2015. The Celtics had been dominant racing to the NBA’s best record, especially in the second half. Miami led by 18 in the first half and a 16-2 fourth-quarter run by the Celtics cut the Heat lead to 91-90 before Waiters took over.

“We needed to stop the bleeding by any means,” Waiters said. “I felt like we got great looks. Sometimes when the tide turns it’s hard. They made their run. Like I said, it’s a helluva team over there. It reminds us of us a lot in certain ways, the guard play, aggressive, the defense. It’s really just like two defensive teams going to war. I just feel like tonight we wanted it more.”

Irrational confidence: Waiters had his worst game as a member of the Heat on Sunday, missing all 10 of his shots and going scoreless for the first time since joining Miami. He vowed to continue to attack the rim and play with that “irrational confidence” as coach Erik Spoelstra calls it. So with the Heat frittering away an 18 point lead and Boston within one with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining, Waiters took over. His first three bounced high off the rim, hit the backboard and fell through to push the lead to four. Waiters then gave Miami a seven-point lead with another three before throwing down a dunk in the final minute. He finished 11-of-24 from the field and added six assists.

“He has great confidence,” Spoelstra said. “It’s about learning better decision making and responsibility with the ball during the course of the game to make plays for our team. I thought this was one of his better games throughout.”

Handle with care: One twist to Spoelstra’s substation pattern was pulling Dragic 4:50 into the game and getting him early rest. It worked. Dragic, who has been the Heat’s most consistent player this season, remained on the bench for the first two minutes of the second quarter before returning. He then scored 14 points in the final 10 minutes of the half along with four rebounds to help build a 13-point halftime lead. Dragic finished with a team-high 27 points on 8-of-17 shooting and got to the line 10 times, making nine. He added five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes.

“Goran was great. Goran is a winner,” Spoelstra said. “What we’re trying to learn is winning habits. That’s all we’ve been talking about. We want to be more consistent on the court. It’s your professionalism, your approach, consistency with behavior and consistency with routine. I can go on and on and you can just put a picture of Goran Dragic. That’s why he is one of the most consistent guys not only on this team but in the league.”

Inspired effort: The Heat beat themselves up for the last three days, questioning their effort and essentially calling Wednesday’s game a gut check. Miami was a completely different team from the one that mailed it in during the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Pacers. Miami played with energy, especially on the defensive end, which in turn boosted the offense. Miami held Boston to 33.3 percent shooting in the first half to lead by 13 points and Celtics finished shooting 41.7 percent. The Heat entered Wednesday as the league’s seventh-best first-half team in terms of plus-minus at plus-44, but also the league’s worst second-half team at minus-87. The Celtics entered as the league’s best second half team with a plus-148. Boston outscored Miami, 57-50, in the second half but it wasn’t enough.

“In previous games, we struggled, especially in the third quarter,” Dragic said. “Tonight we came with a lot of energy. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively. And you can see, we extended the lead. But we know that Boston is a great team that they’re going to make a run. But we were cool, we were calm. In the end, it was awesome.”

The road ahead: The Heat head out on another trip, though not as long as the six-games, 11-day journey earlier this month. This time, Miami will be on the road for four games over seven days to face three teams with winning records. The trip starts in Minnesota on Friday and takes them through Chicago (Sunday), Cleveland (Tuesday) and New York (Wednesday). The game against the Cavaliers will be the first time Miami faces Dwyane Wade in a Cleveland uniform and the first time Wade and LeBron James face their old team as teammates.

[Heat rookie Bam Adebayo is not getting a lot of playing time, but he’s ‘a sponge’ behind the scenes]

[James Johnson after Heat’s 7-9 start: ‘This is code red right now’]

[Mailbag: How much do the Miami Heat miss Rodney McGruder?]

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Tonight’s matchup: Celtics come to Miami riding 16-game winning streak

BOSTON CELTICS VS. MIAMI HEAT

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami.

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Records: Boston 16-2, Miami 7-9

 

Kyrie Irving scored 24 points in his first game against the Miami Heat as a member of the Boston Celtics on Oct. 28 in Miami. (Getty Images).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

Heat

F: Justise Winslow

F: Josh Richardson

C: Hassan Whiteside

G: Dion Waiters

G: Goran Dragic

Celtics

F: Jayson Tatum

F: Marcus Morris

C: Al Horford

G: Jaylen Brown

G: Kyrie Irving

Scouting report: Boston started 0-2 and since has won 16 straight games, equaling the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history. The Celtics are doing it with defense. They lead the league with a defensive rating of 95.8 and points allowed per game, 94.8. Boston is 20th in scoring at 102.9 points per game. Boston has allowed 100 points or more in regulation twice during the streak. … The Celtics are coming off a 110-102 overtime win at Dallas in which Kyrie Irving scored 47 points, his season high. Irving is averaging 22.5 points and 5.3 assists in his first season with Boston. … The Celtics continue to play without free-agent signee Gordon Hayward, who broke his leg in the first quarter of the first game of the season. … The teams meet for the second time this season with the Celtics defeating the Heat, 96-90, in Miami on Oct. 28 for its eighth straight win over Miami. Irving led Boston with 24 points while rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24. Goran Dragic had 22 points for the Heat. … The Heat have slipped to 14th with a defensive rating of 103.9 following a 120-95 home loss to the Pacers on Sunday. … Dion Waiters is looking to bounce back from his first scoreless game as a member of the Heat, missing all 10 of his shots against Indiana. … Miami is just 3-5 at home and has lost five of its last six at AmericanAirlines Arena.

[Mailbag: How much do the Miami Heat miss Rodney McGruder?]

[After blowout home loss to Pacers, Heat hold ‘grueling, dog-eat-dog’ practice Monday in search of consistency]

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Celtics have used defense to build 16-game win streak. It’s a formula the Heat know they must use to have success

MIAMI — It seems like the Heat’s season has reached a tipping point.

After Sunday’s blowout home loss to the Pacers, coach Erik Spoelstra said: “We will find a solution one way or another to get this team playing Miami Heat basketball.”

Well, here come the scorching hot Celtics.

After a two-day break, the Heat (7-9) will look to turn things around and change the narrative when they face the Celtics on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Boston enters on a 16-game winning streak and with the NBA’s best record at 16-2. Continue reading “Celtics have used defense to build 16-game win streak. It’s a formula the Heat know they must use to have success”

Five takeaways: Dragic not happy after second straight Heat home loss: ‘We don’t want to have a season like last year’

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart looks for an open teammate past Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters during the Saturday’s game in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

 

MIAMI – The schedule makers gave the Miami Heat a break the first two weeks of the season. After opening with one game on the road, the Heat returned to AmericanAirlines Arena for their longest home stand of the season, six games.

But Miami is wasting the opportunity.

The Heat lost their second consecutive game, dropping a 96-90 decision to the Boston Celtics on Saturday. Miami (2-3) is 2-2 on the home stand with games remaining against Minnesota and Chicago.

The Heat fell behind at the 10-minute mark of the second quarter and did not lead the rest of the way.

Miami got within three points on a Kelly Olynyk layup with 7½ minutes to play in the game but once again went cold, going without a field goal for 2:25. The Heat then cut the deficit to two but could not overtake the Celtics (4-2).

“We need to bounce back,” said guard Goran Dragic, who led Miami with 22 points. “We don’t want to have a season like last year.”

The Heat started 11-30 last year and missed the playoff on a tiebreaker.

Josh Richardson and James Johnson each added 16 points for the Heat. Boston’s Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 24.

The Heat were without center  Hassan Whiteside, who missed his fourth consecutive game after bruising a bone in his left knee in the season opener.

Here are our five takeaways:

Too many turnovers: The Heat entered the game tied for the seventh-fewest turnovers with 13.8 per game, with opponents averaging 16.5 point off those giveaways. Miami finished with 19 turnovers that led to 21 Boston points. Miami almost reached its average in the first half with 11 turnovers that the Celtics converted to 15 points. The Heat were loose with the ball and unselfish to a fault at times during the game, turning down open shots and forcing the pass, hoping for something better. The final turnover was the most costly. The Heat pulled to within four points when Richardson lost the ball with 1:19 to play. Irving then buried a 3-pointer to give Boston a seven-point lead with 57 seconds to play.

“What you had was a throwback possession game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Neither team was getting great looks. In this new modern NBA, that’s a game in the 80s. When you have a game like that, those turnovers, the throwaway possessions, really crush you. That’s where the game was. Everything else was how you expect it to be against a very good team.”

Defense tightens, offense goes cold: The Heat were much better defensively, holding the Celtics to 42.0 percent shooting (34-of-81), including 31.6 percent in the fourth quarter, and 44 points in the paint. Miami entered the game allowing 108.5 points per game (22nd in the league) and 50.0 points in the paint (27th). This time it was the offense that bogged down, especially in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Miami closed shooting 43.0 percent.

“Everybody was frustrated tonight,” Dragic said. “Everybody was low energy. It’s hard to describe.”

Third-quarter blues: The Heat were in the game at halftime, trailing 47-45 but this game turned in the third quarter. The Celtics built an 11-point lead as the Heat shot 7-of-19 and continued to give away the ball with four turnovers. And as the offense bogged down, the Heat started settling for 3-pointers, launching 11 in the quarter, making just three.

“We just got to figure it out, we got to get guys in the right spot, communicate and get everybody together,” said Justise Winslow, who led Miami with 12 rebounds. “Too many times there were six, seven seconds left in the 24-second clock and all we had left was a pick and roll. We have to get into more actions earlier.”

Olynyk faces former team: The Heat’s first phone call after learning Gordon Hayward was signing with Boston was to former Celtics big man, Kelly Olynyk, who had been released by the Celtics to make room for Hayward. The two quickly agreed to a contract (four years, $50 million) and the Heat had their biggest offseason addition. Olynyk faced his former team for the first time Saturday and made an immediate impact. Within 23 seconds of entering the game, he had a steal and a 3-pointer. Olynyk finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Olynyk helped the Heat get back into the game in the fourth quarter with six early points.

Bruised backcourt: Dion Waiters and Dragic are dealing with early season bumps, bruises and twists. Dragic had his moments in the first half but had a rough start to the second half and appeared frustrated on the bench. But he wasn’t the only one, as Miami went from a two-point deficit at the half to digging an 11-point hole in the third. Dragic returned and was solid in the fourth quarter. Waiters, though, did not play the final 12 minutes after a rough night. He finished with five points in 24 minutes and shot 2-of-8. Most of those misses coming at the rim as he continues to take the ball to the basket in traffic. The shooting guard continues to deal with a problematic left ankle he sprained more than six months ago, but to his credit has not used the injury as an excuse.

Spoelstra said Waiters absence in the fourth quarter was not a health issue.

“We were looking for anything to stem the tide,” he said. “The group we had in there crawled all the way back. We wanted to keep on going and find a way to win. We just couldn’t do that.”

New-look Celtics: The Celtics did not stand pat with the roster that had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season and lost to the Cavaliers in the conference finals. Boston returns just four players, with several departing to make room for Hayward’s four-year, $128 million deal and others being shipped to Cleveland in the Irving trade. The Heat did a good job containing Irving early but were hurt by guard Marcus Smart, who had 12 of his 16 points in the first half . Irving caught fire in the third quarter and finished 10-of-23 from the floor. Rookie Jayson Tatum had 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

“He’s a great closer,” Spoelstra said of Irving. “His handle allows him to get where he wants to get. His range, you have to extend your defense.”

[Erik Spoelstra reflects on free-agent pitch to Gordon Hayward: ‘We absolutely respected his choice’]

[Miami Heat send two-way guard Matt Williams Jr. to G League affiliate in Sioux Falls]

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Erik Spoelstra reflects on free-agent pitch to Gordon Hayward: ‘We absolutely respected his choice’

The Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward watches a foul shot put up by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

MIAMI — With the Celtics in Miami for Saturday’s game against the Heat, Gordon Hayward was supposed to be at AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since his free-agent meeting with the organization.

But Hayward is likely out for the season after suffering a gruesome leg injury in Boston’s season-opening loss to Cleveland. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took some time Saturday to reflect on the organization’s free-agent summer pitch to Hayward.

“We loved the meeting with Gordon,” Spoelstra said Saturday in advance of the Heat’s game against the Celtics. “There was a reason we recruited him. We thought it went well. You just never know how those things are going to play out.” Continue reading “Erik Spoelstra reflects on free-agent pitch to Gordon Hayward: ‘We absolutely respected his choice’”

Tonight’s matchup: Kelly Olynyk goes against his old team as Miami Heat face Boston Celtics

Miami’s James Johnson shoots during a game against the Celtics at American Airlines Arena last season. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

BOSTON CELTICS VS. MIAMI HEAT

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Records: Boston 3-2, Miami 2-2

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

Celtics

F: Jayson Tatum

F: Jaylen Brown

C: Al Horford

G: Marcus Smart

G: Kyrie Irving

Heat

F: James Johnson

F: Josh Richardson

C: Bam Adebayo

G: Dion Waiters

G: Goran Dragic

Scouting report: The Celtics have 11 new players after finishing with the best record in the East last season, including Kyrie Irving, who came over in a trade from Cleveland. Irving leads Boston with 20.8 and 6.2 assists per game. … The Celtics have the fourth best defense, allowing 96.0 points per game. … Boston has won three straight after dropping their first two games. … The Celtics are without Gordon Hayward, who signed with Boston this summer after meeting with the Heat. Hayward fractured his ankle in the season opener. Marcus Morris (knee) also is out. … Miami has lost seven straight in the series, including four in a row at home. … Kelly Olynyk faces his old team for the first time. Olynyk signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Heat this summer. He is averaging 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. … Heat center Hassan Whiteside will miss his fourth straight game because of a bruised bone in his left knee. … The Heat rank 24nd in the league with a 107.7 defensive rating and are 22nd allowing 108.5 points per game.

[Life without Hassan Whiteside will continue for Heat on Saturday vs. Celtics]

[Mailbag: Why is Dwyane Wade willing to play off the bench with the Cavaliers, and what does this mean for the Heat?]

[Pat Riley on Heat’s start, NBA defense, Adebayo and Winslow, being inducted into Miami chamber Hall of Champions]

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Former Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk talks about life in Miami on eve of game against his old team

MIAMI — A lot of the faces on the Celtics have changed, but Kelly Olynyk is still looking forward to facing his former team.

Olynyk spent the first four seasons of his NBA career with Boston before signing a four-year, $50 million deal to join the Heat as a free agent this summer. He’ll get his first chance to face his former team when the Heat (2-2) take on the Celtics (3-2) on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Continue reading “Former Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk talks about life in Miami on eve of game against his old team”

Mailbag: What does Kyrie Irving trade mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?

MIAMI — The top two teams in the Eastern Conference swapped star point guards.

The Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick. What does this trade mean for the landscape of the Eastern Conference this season?

We answer that question and more in the latest installment of the Heat mailbag. Continue reading “Mailbag: What does Kyrie Irving trade mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?”