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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, April 15th (All times eastern)

Miami Heat (56-22) at Boston Celtics (43-35), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The playoff bound Boston Celtics will aim to move closer to locking up the Atlantic Division title tonight, when they tangle with the suddenly struggling Miami Heat at the FleetCenter.

Boston could actually nail down the Atlantic Division championship tonight with a win and a Philadelphia loss. The Celtics could seal the deal with two more wins and no help from the 76ers as well, as they lead Philadelphia by three games.

The Celtics have won two straight, four of five and five of their last seven, including a 111-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center on Wednesday to secure a postseason slot. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 32 points and hit a big jumper with 19 seconds left to lift the Celtics to the win.

Antoine Walker and Ricky Davis netted 17 points apiece for the Celtics in the contest. Walker also grabbed nine rebounds and Gary Payton finished with 12 points and 10 assists in the victory. Raef LaFrentz finished with 11 points for the Celtics.

The Celtics shot 58-percent compared to 49-percent for Milwaukee. Boston nailed 57.5 percent from the field, including 7-of-14 (.500) from three-point range. The Celtics hit 20-of-24 (.833) from the free throw line and limited their miscues to 10.

Boston, which has half of its final four games at home, is 26-13 in its friendly confines this season. The Celtics have lost three of their last four home games.

Miami is mired in a season-long three-game losing streak, including a 126-119 overtime loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night. The Heat haven't dropped four in a row since February 23-March 2 last season.

Miami currently sits third in the league, three games behind first place Phoenix. The Heat would need a lot of help to nail down home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Dwyane Wade poured in a career-high 48 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Heat. Wade set a Wachovia Center record with 48 points by an opposing player.

Damon Jones netted 18 and Udonis Haslem tallied 17 points in the losing effort. Shaquille O'Neal had 13 points and 12 rebounds in his first game back from three-game hiatus due to a virus. Miami is 4-3 overall without Shaq in the lineup this season.

Miami shot 51.1 percent from the field, including 7-of-18 (.389) from three- point range. The Heat hit only 22-of-34 (.647) from the free throw line, while committing 20 turnovers.

Miami activated Rasual Butler and Christian Laettner on Thursday, while sending Qyntel Woods and Wang Zhi-Zhi to the injured list.

The Heat, who have lost five of their last six road games, are 23-16 in foreign buildings this season. Miami has two of its final four contests on the road.

Miami has won both meetings between these teams this season and four straight overall. These two teams have split the last 14 meetings. Miami has lost three of its last five at Boston.

04/15 10:11:29 ET


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