Miami Heat

Why Miami Heat Should Play Big 3 Against Celtics & Bulls Ahead of NBA Playoffs

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 18:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat  drives toward the basket against the defense of Jeff Green #8 of the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics on March 18, 2013 at theTD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Heat kept winning streak going to 24 games in a row, which is the second longest winning streak in NBA history.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Matt ParkerContributor IIIApril 12, 2013

Having secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference weeks ago, the Miami Heat started doling out rest to their key cogs LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

In fact, James, Wade and Bosh will take the court together for the first time in two weeks when they host the rival Boston Celtics April 12.

This matchup, coupled with a Sunday matinee against the Chicago Bulls, provides the Heat with a perfect pair of NBA playoff tune-up games, if you will.

And while Boston will be without forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Celtics should be more than up to the task.

Regardless of who is playing for Boston, the game promises to be competitive and just what Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is looking for in terms of a competitive atmosphere heading into next weekend's opening-round playoff series.

That's because Boston and Chicago are system teams who hang their hats on strong, sound defense and disciplined coaching.

Much like San Antonio Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich, Boston's Doc Rivers and Chicago's Tom Thibodeau seem able to simply plug players into their system and get positive results.

And it was Chicago who ended Miami's win streak at 27 games, the second-longest in NBA history behind the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' mark of 33 straight.

Chasing history was a deciding factor in playing through minor ailments that eventually escalated and required additional rest. Wade admitted as much this week.

From ESPN.com: "I think that winning streak played a role in me playing a little too long," Wade said. 

James, on the other hand, has played nearly non-stop beginning with last season's condensed schedule, and 23 playoffs games leading right into the London Olympics before heading to training camp in preparation of the Heat's title defense this season.

Based on his performance over the course of the last 16 months or so, I'd say he's earned a bit of recovery time.

Thanks to a deep core of savvy veterans, Miami was able to rest their stars and still clinch the league's best record as the Spurs have stumbled to the finish line while some of their main pieces battle injuries themselves.

The March 31 tilt against San Antonio began a period of six games in which Miami played without at least two of their top three players.

They went 5-1 over that stretch, losing only to the streaking New York Knicks on April 2 as Carmelo Anthony matched his career-high scoring output, scorching the Heat for 50 points.

Miami's victory Wednesday at Washington not only clinched the league's best record and home court advantage through the NBA Finals, but set a new franchise mark for wins in a season with 62.

The Heat have already fallen to Boston without Rajon Rondo Jan. 27 and the Bulls ended Miami's win streak sans Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton and, of course, Derrick Rose.

Moreover, the Celtics gave Miami all they could handle March 18 as well minus both Rondo and Garnett.

If the Heat are to repeat as champions, they will be tested many times over the course of the next two-plus months.

And while the Celtics and Bulls may not be title contenders, they are well-coached, veteran-laden squads that play Miami tough.

Ahead of next weekend's likely first round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, this weekend is an apt and necessary test for the champs.

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