Paul Pierce has shocking praise for Miami Heat as the biggest threat to the Boston Celtics

"That’s the only team I be like dang, I really am scared of [them].”

2022 NBA All-Star - Taco Bell Skills Challenge
2022 NBA All-Star - Taco Bell Skills Challenge / Arturo Holmes/GettyImages
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It isn’t often that Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce has much praise for the Miami Heat but, when discussing which teams could beat his former team in the East this season, Pierce was quick to give the Heat their flowers.

The question was posed on Pierce’s podcast: Who can beat a healthy Celtics team in the East four times? 

Former Boston Celtics great Paul Pierce said his former team should only be afraid of the Miami Heat in the East.

“They own Philly, I don’t want to hear that,” Pierce said when the 76ers were mentioned as a competitor.

“You only got one legit team – Miami,” Pierce added. “Because even though they are where they at, that’s the only team I be like dang, I really am scared of [them].”

Pierce’s history with the Heat is mostly adversarial. From his days as a player alongside Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, those Celtics were the Big Three Heat’s fiercest rival. Then, of course, Allen left those Celtics to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat in 2013. The fallout from that decision is well-documented.

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Since retiring in 2017, Pierce routinely took shots at the Heat in the media. When he was with ESPN, he claimed he was a better player than Wade. He’s downplayed the Heat-Celtics rivalry. He commented that Udonis Haslem’s Heat jersey retirement was “given” and not earned.

So that Pierce claims that the Celtics (45-12, first in the East) can only be threatened by the Heat (31-25, seventh in the East) it is surprising. Not because the analysis isn’t valid, but because of who it is coming from.

Several other teams in the East can theoretically push the Celtics. The Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, the second-place Cavaliers, the 76ers if Joel Embiid is healthy in the playoffs and the New York Knicks have all had impressive stretches this season.

The Heat, of course, have faced the Celtics in the East finals in three of the last four seasons. The Heat are 11-9 against the Celtics in those playoff games. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo’s Heat against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s Celtics might be the NBA’s top rivalry at the moment. 

But the Heat are also 0-3 against the Celtics this season. The Celtics own the NBA’s best record and net rating while the Heat are middling in both. Any confidence in the Heat is based on the history between these two cores, which doesn’t make it wrong. Ask the Celtics who they want to face in the playoffs in an honest moment, and they’d likely list several teams before mentioning the Heat.

Making things more interesting is that rather than waiting for the East finals, the Heat and Celtics this postseason could meet as soon as the first round if Miami ends up with the No. 8 seed like last postseason.

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