Exactly five years to the day when the Boston Celtics stopped the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, they can make sure the Miami Heat don’t take it all for themselves.
The Heat would have to do it by becoming the first visiting team in nearly two months to win in Boston – the only Eastern Conference city where they have no regular-season victories during the LeBron James era.
All of those facts provide even more intrigue to a game which would be extremely significant regardless of the opponent or location because Miami is seeking a 23rd consecutive victory Monday night.
“If there’s any group that would be motivated in a circumstance like this, it’s that team in green,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t know if the streak will be a big factor but they love playing against us, and vice versa.”
Spoelstra’s squad now must play on the road for a second straight day, having stretched its win streak to 22 with a 108-91 victory in Toronto on Sunday afternoon. That matched the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for No. 2 on the NBA’s list of top winning streaks, shy of only the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ run of 33.
“It’s a special ride right now that we’re on,” James said. “The best thing about it is we’re doing it together.”
Houston’s streak of 22 straight victories ended March 18, 2008, with a 94-74 home loss to the Celtics.
Miami’s run began five days after a 100-98 double-overtime loss in Boston on Jan. 27, the same day the Celtics (36-29) learned Rajon Rondo was out for the season with a torn ACL. Shockingly, they’ve won all 11 of their games in Boston since losing Rondo, recording the team’s longest single-season home winning streak since 2008-09.
“We just feel like this is a building we should never lose in,” said Paul Pierce, whose Celtics are 24-9 at home. “Teams coming to the Garden, they’ve got to know that this is going to be their toughest game of the year. That’s the feeling and the swagger that we’re bringing.”
This home win streak began with that thriller against the Heat (51-14), who have averaged a paltry 79.6 points in going 0-5 at Boston during the regular season since James joined the team. Miami, though, is 2-3 there in the playoffs over the past two years, including a Game 6 win in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals when the Celtics had a chance to close out the series.
The Heat also knocked them out in the conference semifinals a year earlier, but Boston has won 12 of the past 15 regular-season meetings. That includes a 7-3 record since James joined this rivalry, though the Celtics did lose 120-107 in Miami to open the season.
“We’ve got to know we’re going to have a dog fight on our hands,” said Dwyane Wade, who had 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting with six turnovers in the Jan. 27 loss at Boston.
James had a season-best 16 rebounds in that game and scored 34 points, but he took a season-high 31 field-goal attempts and missed a potential go-ahead 12-footer with less than seven seconds left in the second OT.
Kevin Garnett keyed the win with 24 points and 11 rebounds but could miss this matchup due to a strained muscle in his left thigh. He sat out Saturday’s 105-88 win over Charlotte – just the second game he’s missed all season – and coach Doc Rivers told the team’s official website that Garnett is “50-50 at best” to play Monday.
“It’s just a point of the year where you’re just not going to play him if he’s not feeling great,” Rivers said.
Pierce should be well-rested, having played less than 24 minutes in each of the past two games after being given a night off Tuesday against the Bobcats. He had a triple-double in the last meeting with Miami and scored 23 points in the first one.