After looking old and uncertain at various times during the season, the Boston Celtics have hit their stride just in time to take a convincing Atlantic Division lead as the playoffs draw near.
Since the insertion of Avery Bradley in the starting lineup nine games ago, they have been even better, giving up an average of 81.7 on 37.9 percent shooting – the best mark in the league during that stretch.
With their latest victory against the Sixers, the Celtics surpassed them to become the number one team in the league in points allowed per possession.
The Celtics (32-24) will need that defense to step up once again as they visit the Miami Heat, the best home team in the league at 24-3, in Tuesday’s best game.
The two teams have split the season series at one game apiece, with each team winning on their home court. The last meeting took place on April 1 when the Celtics embarrassed the Heat 91-72, prompting a players-only meeting for Miami. They meet for the third of four matchups this season.
Last season, Boston won the season series by taking three of four games.
The Celtics are 20-9 when Kevin Garnett starts at center, and 12 of his 18 double-doubles have come at that position.
Rajon Rondo looks to continue his remarkable run of double-digit assists. He has recorded 10 assists or more in 16 consecutive games, passing John Stockton for the longest of such streak in the last 20 years.
Bradley has averaged 13.7 points on 51% shooting over the last nine games and may have permanently taken the starting shooting guard position over from Ray Allen.
After having their league-best 17-game home winning streak snapped by the Grizzlies, the Heat (40-15) regrouped and dismantled the Pistons 98-75.
A win tonight against Boston, along with a New York victory, would put them just one game behind Chicago for the best record in the league.
Dwyane Wade missed the previous game against Detroit due to right ankle soreness, but will play tonight.
Miami is averaging 100.2 points on the season, fourth best in the league.