The Miami Heat came to Boston with all intentions of improving their chances of finishing with the first seed, and it ended up being one of those regular season games that felt like a playoff game.
The first half saw the two teams battle hard, and even had Kyle Lowry taking shots like he was Steph Curry.
However, the Celtics wouldn’t be outdone, and used defense to create offense to keep things competitive.
The third quarter, in particular, was a back and forth battle that kept fans on the edge of their seats. After a first half that finished with the Heat holding a slim 53-52 lead, things opened up for both teams in the third quarter. The Heat struck early on, using great ball movement and shooting to push their advantage to 69-58 with 7:51 left in the quarter.
However, the Celtics had their own counterpunches prepared and rattled off a 16-0 run that flipped the deficit to a 74-69 advantage with 4:20 left on the clock. The teams then traded more blows, with Miami grabbing the lead again before the Celtics closed the quarter with a 9-3 run to enter the fourth quarter with a 83-79 lead.
While Jaylen Brown showed off his range, Jayson Tatum made sure to remind everyone that he continues to improve as a two-way player.
The rest of the game was a battle of attrition, something that the Heat are well-versed in. When it came to the final five minutes, the Celtics couldn’t make enough buckets, and the Heat worked their passing game to perfection. Still, it was only a 102-98 game for Miami with 1:40 left on the clock. Tatum had a chance to cut that further with 33.6 seconds left, but was called for an offensive foul as he barrelled into two defenders in the paint.
The Celtics wouldn’t score again, and the Heat closed things out with a hard-fought 105-98 victory. The result was huge for Miami, because the Celtics already owned the tiebreaker for their season series before the game. They really needed to get the W to keep their positioning, and as of now they’re still first in the East with a 49-28 record. The Celtics, on the other hand, have gotten closer to finishing with the fourth seed with a 47-30 record.
Butler led his team in scoring with 24 points, while Lowry chipped in 23 points and eight assists. Bam Adebayo finished with a near triple-double of 17 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
Considering how Miami looked like they were imploding recently, they’ve recovered well. They’re nowhere near out of the woods, though. Their final five games will see them battle postseason-bound rivals in Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta and Charlotte, before closing the season with a game against Orlando.