Heat-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

For both the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, resting stars appears to be the priority over any possible improvement in postseason positioning.

The Celtics, though, could have a bit more help Tuesday night as they try for a third win this month over the Heat, who may be without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Miami only has a slim chance of catching Chicago for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but Boston has a better shot of getting home-court advantage in its first-round series against Atlanta.

The Celtics (37-27) still opted to rest Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen in Friday's 97-92 loss to the Hawks. Pierce and Garnett could return Tuesday, but Allen (ankle) and Rondo (back) remain day-to-day with injuries.

Allen, who has missed seven straight games, sat out Monday's practice along with Rondo, Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma.

"If I thought our guys were banged up, I'd sit them. That's not even a question for me," coach Doc Rivers told the Celtics' official website. "I'm taking rest and rhythm over home court."

While Boston has the No. 4 seed in the East via the Atlantic Division title, it needs to gain a game on fifth-seeded Atlanta over the final two contests in order to start the postseason at home.

The Heat (46-18) would need to win twice and have the Bulls lose two to get the No. 1 spot, a scenario that seems unlikely with Chicago hosting Cleveland in its finale Thursday.

Miami has not said how it will proceed after it bounced back from a tough loss to Washington on Saturday with a 97-88 victory Sunday against Houston. Wade and Bosh sat out along with Mario Chalmers (flu) and Ronny Turiaf (hamstring).

Bosh has missed the last four games with muscle fatigue in his legs, while Wade dislocated his left index finger Saturday.

James rested Saturday, but had 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists Sunday. It's unclear if he'll play in the final two games.

"Everything from here on out will be a daily decision," coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Heat are feeling confident with James capping an impressive season Spoelstra believes should earn him his third MVP.

James is averaging 27.1 points and has scored at least 30 six times this month.

"Every night I try to go out and be the MVP for our team," James said. "Individual accolades take care of themselves. All I care about is team success and making my teammates happy."

He had 36 points April 10 against the Celtics, but Boston won 115-107 in Miami. The Celtics have won both meetings this month after the Heat won 115-107 on Dec. 27.

Another victory for the Celtics may help them pull even with Atlanta, which hosts the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. Boston has the tiebreaker over the Hawks.

"Home court is great; you want to have home court," Pierce said. "You want to try to play for home court, but at the end of the day you want to be healthy first.

"I mean, we're definitely a better home team than we are a road team, but at this point we feel like if we're healthy we have a chance in anybody's building. We've shown we can beat anybody in the Eastern Conference in their building."

The Celtics look especially formidable after the emergence of Avery Bradley, who has started 16 of the last 17 games with Allen banged up. The second-year guard is averaging 15.5 points in that stretch after scoring a career-high 28 on Friday.

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