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Heat looking to show how far they have come since ‘humbling’ loss to Celtics

MIAMI — When the Boston Celtics came to Miami at the end of January, things got ugly.

Boston put up 143 points on Miami and rolled to a 33-point win over the Heat on national TV. Now the Heat (28-24) have a chance to prove they have gotten much better since that matchup on Jan. 25, facing off with the Celtics (40-12) again Sunday at 2 p.m.

“We were pretty much a different team,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said. “We had a team meeting and stuff since then. I think we’re playing a much different level of basketball since that game.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called the loss to the Celtics “humbling” but he said it was the catalyst for making needed changes.

“We had to, obviously, address some things, get on the same page,” Spoelstra said.

“And sometimes that happens from being humbled. That was a very humbling night. And Boston has played very good basketball this season. That’s why they have the best record in the league. At that time — it was only, what, two and a half weeks ago; it feels like it was three months ago — that was part of the reason why we had to face some harsh realities and truth that we’ve had to address, and we’re starting to find some footing. But we still have a long way to go to get a real breakthrough.”

The previous loss was Terry Rozier’s second game with Miami, and he scored seven points. In seven games since then, he has averaged 13.9 points and has been able to take part in full practices.

The Heat also believe they have improved their defense since that loss to the Celtics. Since allowing 143 to Boston, they have given up an average of 108 points in seven games and only 102 per game over their past five contests.

“I feel like we cleaned up communication,” center Bam Adebayo said. “I feel like communication was our biggest thing and I feel like we’ve been working on that since that point. I feel like we’ve gotten better. Guys have been able to be on the same page.”

The Heat are also healthy again, with only Dru Smith expected to miss the game due to injury. Jimmy Butler is listed as questionable for personal reasons.

Even after their face-off with Boston, the schedule stays difficult for the Heat, who are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference. They face the third-place Bucks (34-19) in Milwaukee on Tuesday and the fifth-place 76ers (30-21) in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“I feel like this whole week is about us,” Adebayo said. “I feel like it’s about us, how we measure ourselves, how we look at ourselves and obviously going out there and trying to win games. I feel like there’s more focus toward us.”

Spoelstra on Williams addition

The Heat added guard Alondes Williams to the roster on a two-way contract on Friday. Although Williams was averaging 22.4 points for the G-League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce, Spoelstra does not expect prodigious numbers from the new addition.

“It was more about the overall development,” Spoelstra said.

“I think it’s easy to point to some big scoring games. That was really down the list for us. Sure, it’s great that he was able to have those kinds of nights. But it was really about previously playing the role, defending and doing a lot of intangibles and impacting winning while the rest of his game was improving. Because even the big scoring nights, he will not play like that or have anywhere near that kind of role. With us, it’s more about all those other things.

Williams, the 2022 ACC Player of the Year, went undrafted out of Wake Forest but signed with the Brooklyn Nets. He played five minutes of one game for them in 2022, recording one rebound and no points.

“He was extremely coachable, he’s been coachable, he’s had a great positive approach there in Sioux Falls,” Spoelstra said. “You’re happy to reward someone like that.”