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Celtics, Heat Battle In Crucial Saturday Matinee

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat have a Saturday afternoon showdown at TD Banknorth Garden that could go a long way towards deciding if Boston will own the three or four seed. With just 23 games to go, every game is huge, especially those that are against immediate competitors in the Eastern Conference. Let's see who has the advantage today.

Brad Stevens and his Boston Celtics welcome the Miami Heat to Boston today and continue their battle for the higher seeding in the Eastern Conference. The Heat come into the game extremely banged up with the most notable loss being power forward and best overall player Chris Bosh. Bosh missed the final 30 games of the 2014-15 season due to a blood clot in his lung and he's experiencing the same issues, only this time the problem is in his leg. He'll be out for the foreseeable future and their is a very good chance he could miss the remainder of the season. Blood clots are life threatening and it's more important for Bosh, still a very young man, to get his health in order. He has enough money to live five lifetimes, assuming he manages it right, so now basketball takes a back seat and his health comes first, as it should. 

Dwayne Wade and Hassan Whiteside have also missed recent games for the Heat but are both expected to start today against the Celtics. Recently bought-out Joe Johnson will be joining the Heat rotation, but he isn't going to be available until at least tomorrow so he isn't of concern to Boston. Even with the rash of injuries and lack of rotational consistency, the Heat have still managed to overtake the Atlanta Hawks for first place in the Southeast Division. Miami has played excellent defense all season, regardless of who's on the floor, which is a testament to underrated head coach Erik Spoelstra. Even with all the positives Miami can point to this season, they still have their hands full coming in the Garden where the Celtics have won nine straight and seem to play with more confidence. 

Kelly Olynyk is still out for Boston and is expected to miss at least two weeks. There is no doubt that Boston feels his loss, but they're talented enough to make up for his loss by simply adjusting the way they run their offense. Avery Bradley, who has been good throughout his career against the Heat, scored 25 points in their November meeting and will probably be ready for another big afternoon. Isaiah Thomas is starting to pass the ball like he never has before and becoming a dual-threat offensive point guard; he'll either score or find the open man, which makes his virtually unstoppable. Thomas also has a little fuel as he got word of two clueless Boston media members saying he'll never be a star player because he's too small; nothing like a slight from the media to keep the fuel fired. 

Amir Johnson, who played very well Thursday night versus the Bucks, gets to face a team that he had 13 points and 10 rebounds against back in November. Boston also got strong contributions from Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder in the 105-95 win in Miami, so Boston should have confidence going into today's game because they are using the same rotation.

Boston is 63-44 all-time versus the Heat and 33-18 at home. 

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