Irving sizzles as Celtics host Heat
When the Miami Heat visit Boston on Monday night, it will be a rematch of their Jan. 10 game that rankled Celtics star guard Kyrie Irving.
The Heat won that game in Miami, 115-99, and Irving -- who led all scorers with 22 points on 10-for-19 shooting -- was so disappointed that he put up shots on a practice court for 30 minutes immediately following the contest.
"I just wanted to release some stress after a tough loss," Irving said then.
The Celtics seem to be entering Monday's game in a better mental place, having won three games in a row, including a 113-105 victory over the host Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
Boston actually trailed the Hawks for most of the game before putting together a 9-0 fourth-quarter run.
"We were gritty," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
The Celtics also had Irving, who scored a game-high 32 points. Irving leads the Celtics in scoring (23.4) and assists (6.8). And the 26-year-old former Duke star has been hot lately.
Irving is averaging 30.5 points over his past four games and 35.0 points in the past two contests.
Boston's other double-figure scorers on the season are Jayson Tatum (16.3), Marcus Morris (14.8), Jaylen Brown (12.2), Al Horford (12.1) and Gordon Hayward (11.0).
Hayward, whose wife is expecting their third child, was left behind in Boston, missing the Hawks game. Hayward is expected to face the Heat.
"With pending (bad) weather (in Boston), there was no reason (for Hayward) to make this trip," Stevens said.
Meanwhile, the Heat -- who beat the host Chicago Bulls 117-103 on Saturday -- has five active double-digit scorers: Josh Richardson (17.9), Dwyane Wade (14.0), Hassan Whiteside (12.5), Justise Winslow (12.3) and Tyler Johnson (11.2).
Of those five players, four of them are guards -- including reserves Wade and Johnson -- and that has created a roster glut.
There's also Dion Waiters, who last week complained about his lack of playing time before scoring a season-high 21 points off the bench Saturday.
Waiters, a starter last season, had offseason ankle surgery and didn't return to action until Jan. 2.
"Right now, that's my role," Waiters told the Sun-Sentinel when asked about playing as a reserve. "I just have to do whatever is asked of me -- just be ready, I guess."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team is 1-2 going on this four-game road trip, said he has a "deep" roster.
That is especially true in the backcourt, where Wayne Ellington -- perhaps their most accurate pure shooter -- has been a healthy scratch in 10 of the past 12 games.
In addition, 2018 All-Star point guard Goran Dragic, who is second on the team in scoring (15.3) and first in assists (4.9), is out due to knee surgery. He is due back later this season.
"The strength of our team is our depth," Spoelstra said.
"For guys working their way back into the rotation, like Dion, it's not easy. The minutes are not guaranteed. You have to leave an impression during games, and that's what (Waiters did against Chicago). He made his minutes memorable."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 20, 2019