When it comes to grading the way the Heat has played through its first 15 games, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh pretty much see eye-to-eye.
“We’re doing OK for the first 15,” Wade said Sunday after practice. “We saw some good things. We saw some not-so-good things. But for the first 15, I’d grade us as a low B.”
Said Bosh: “[I’d give us] a B. I’m a little more lenient than he is. I’m a lot nicer guy. I think we’re doing OK. Of course, within the 15 games there have been a couple letdowns. But we have to learn from that.”
One thing everyone can agree on: The schedule over the next couple weeks is going to get a lot tougher for Miami (10-5). After Monday night’s game against the Boston Celtics, who went into Orlando on Sunday night with a 9-7 record, the Heat will host Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday and then LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.
After that, the Heat’s next five opponents — Washington, Charlotte, Indiana, Memphis and Atlanta — either made the playoffs last year or are much improved.
“That’s why it’s a big week man,” Bosh said. “KD is back and looked like he hasn’t missed a step. He came right back and inserted himself right back into the swing of things. [Russell Westbrook] is playing at the highest level he’s been playing at for the last two years. And, of course, Bron, we know what he can do.
“It’s important that we’re at 100 percent. These are the games that I think are very important for us because we consider ourselves an elite team, or at least working to be an elite team. And the head-to-head matchups are very important. You always want to measure yourselves against the best.”
The Celtics, the No. 8 seed in the East last year, clearly don’t have the star power Oklahoma City and Cleveland does. But Boston leads the league in steals (11.3 per game), points off turnovers (22.0 per game) and ranks third in the NBA behind San Antonio and Miami in overall defensive rating.
Bosh said the Heat was preparing Sunday in practice to deal with the way the Celtics use quick hands in the passing lanes to create turnovers and the pressure they put on the ball. Bosh said the fact the Celtics can spread the floor and have all five players on the court make three-pointers is a challenge. He said although Boston is young and still trying to figure things out, they “have the makings of a very good team.”
“Very good team, a team we respect a lot,” Wade said. “They’re going to compete on the defensive end of the floor. They’re going to make you work. They’re going to make you think. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.
“You don’t play the game not to play in competitive games, especially at home. This is going to be a great week for our fans all week to come out and support us.”
Unless he “magically wakes up” feeling a lot better than he has, Luol Deng said it’s likely he will end up missing his third consecutive game Monday with a strained left hamstring.
On Sunday, coach Erik Spoelstra said Deng did more work off to the side at practice than he had done in the past week. But the hamstring is still bothering him, Deng said, when he sprints.
“I’m able to slide and do a lot,” Deng said. “My jump shot is fine. It’s when I try to sprint, and I’m trying to just take off. That’s when it’s troubling me.
“I dealt with a hamstring before, but it was a lot worse than this one. The one I had before was really bad. This one, I was able to finish the game and then able to play the next game. But it just wasn’t going the right way. It just felt like it was getting worse. If it was getting better, I would have definitely continued playing. But it’s just about being smart.”
In the end, if Deng returns Thursday, he will have only missed three games while getting nine days of rest. The Heat sees that as a win-win if he can come back and guard a pair of league MVPs in Durant and James.
“I want to get back as soon as possible,” Deng said. “But when you play teams like that, I know that if we have everybody we’re a better team. Obviously, defensively, those are games these guys are going to get their numbers. But I’m out there to make them work for it. But at the same time, I’m not going to want to rush it where I’m not out there helping the team. We just got to go day-by-day. If I feel great [Monday], and I could play, I’ll go. If it’s the game after, I’ll go. We’re just going to be smart about it.”
▪ Miami recalled power forward Jarnell Stokes from D-League affiliate Sioux Falls on Sunday. Stokes averaged 23 points, 9.7 rebounds and shot 68.1 percent in three games for the Skyforce.
Monday: Celtics at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).
Series: Celtics lead 62-44.
Scouting report: This is the first of three meetings between the teams, and the only game in Miami. The Heat won three of four last season, including both games in Boston. The Celtics are without point guard Marcus Smart (knee), who likely won’t be back until after Christmas. The Heat figures to start Gerald Green again in Luol Deng’s absence.