The chances of the Miami Heat capturing the top seed in the Eastern Conference are remote, and they may just continue to rest their starters to prepare for a playoff run.
The Heat still have two road games left on the regular season schedule and will visit a Boston Celtics team trying to grab homecourt advantage in the opening round of the postseason tonight. The Southeast Division-champion Heat are two games behind the Chicago Bulls for conference supremacy with two to play and won for the sixth time in seven tries with a 97-88 victory versus Houston on Sunday in the finale of a four-game homestand (3-1).
LeBron James, who rested in Saturday's 86-84 loss to Washington, came back to score 32 points on 11 of 21 shooting and also added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals versus the Rockets. Norris Cole had 16 points and both Joel Anthony and Mike Miller scored 11 for Miami, which played without center Chris Bosh (tired legs) for a fourth straight game and guard Dwyane Wade (finger). Wade has missed three of the last five games.
It was a good team win," Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It was nice to have LeBron (James) back, but other guys really stepped up."
Bosh and Wade are both questionable tonight. The Heat have won two in a row on the road and are 18-13 as the visitor this season. They will close out the regular season in Washington on Thursday.
The Atlantic Division-champion Celtics will conclude the regular season slate with a pair of home games against Miami and Milwaukee, and are shooting for their fourth straight win at home. The Celtics are 22-9 as the host.
Boston has split its last six games and suffered a tough 97-92 loss at Atlanta the previous time out on Friday. Avery Bradley had a career-high 28 points for Boston, which was without Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Pierce and Garnett did not dress, while Rondo was not with the team to rest his injured back. Allen sat out for a seventh straight contest due to a sore ankle.
"Before the game we all told each other, this is an opportunity for us to improve. Not only that, for all of us to improve on our games as individuals. Everybody stepped up their game today," Bradley said.
Keyon Dooling posted 17 points, Marquis Daniels had 12 and Brandon Bass finished with 10 points for the Celtics, who are seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Allen is not expected to play tonight and both Rondo (back) and Mickael Pietrus (knee) are questionable. Pierce and Garnett should be back in the lineup unless head coach Doc Rivers gives them more rest.
The Celtics will host the Bucks on Thursday and will try for their third win this month over the Heat. Boston leads the season series with Miami by a 2-1 count and has won 16 of the last 19 matchups between the clubs. The Heat are winless in eight straight trips to Beantown, last winning there on April 6, 2007.