MIAMI – Somehow, after 79 games, nothing between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat has been decided.

Boston, 55-24.

Miami, 55-24.

Tied for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, one team will take a stranglehold on the race for home court through at least the first two playoff rounds today when the Celtics and Heat meet in Miami. Boston is 3-0 in the season series between the clubs, and has won 18 of its last 20 games against the Heat since April 2007.

But if Miami finds a way today, that Celtic dominance may be temporarily forgotten.

“Let’s toss the ball up and play,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “We think we’re a different team than the last three times we’ve played them, but until we prove it in between the lines, it doesn’t matter.”

The Heat are thrilled that Game 4 of the regular-season series is in Miami. That won’t be the case if Game 4 of a potential Heat-Celtics postseason series is also in Miami.

The No. 1 seed in the East has been locked up by the Chicago Bulls, and in some order, seeds 2 and 3 will go to Miami and Boston. So that means the Heat and Celtics will be slotted to meet in the East semifinals, where Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 would be hosted by the higher seed.

“This is a big game for us,” Boston forward Paul Pierce said in a story published on the team’s website, “That’s what we are playing for, for the home court advantage. Not only for the first round, but hopefully we will see them in the second round. This is a big game for us when you are talking about seeds and trying to advance in the playoffs. It’s huge.”

For the Heat, there’s more at stake than just home court.

This season began with great hubbub in Boston, the team that not only ousted Miami from the playoffs a year ago but also knocked out Cleveland — and LeBron James — in the second round last spring. Simply put, the Heat just want to prove to themselves that they can beat the Celtics.

“We’re going against a team that we haven’t beaten this year, that we kind of looked at before the season as needing to get to that point as far as chemistry, as far as what they do as a team,” James said. “There is not one guy on their team that you have to pay attention to — it’s every last one of them.”

The games this year have not necessarily brought the best out of either club.

“It’s about the team that’s going to make the plays down the stretch, who’s going to execute the best down the stretch,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “That team’s going to win the ballgame.”

Today’s winner will still likely need to post at least one more victory in the season’s final two games to lock up the No. 2 spot. If the teams tie, Boston will take the tiebreaker.

“We control our own destiny,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said.


WIZARDS 115, HAWKS 83: Andray Blatche scored 23 points, John Wall had 19, and Washington dealt visiting Atlanta its fourth straight loss.

SPURS 111, JAZZ 102: Richard Jefferson scored 20 points as San Antonio won at home.

BUCKS 108, CAVALIERS 101: Drew Gooden had his first career triple-double and John Salmons scored 32 points as Milwaukee won at home.

ROCKETS 99, CLIPPERS 78: Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin and Brad Miller scored 16 points apiece, and Chuck Hayes had 12 points and 13 rebounds as Houston won at home.


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