The Celtics came into Miami expecting to face an injury-depleted Heat squad and pull off a (relatively) easy win. They didn’t quite get their wish. But Boston sealed this 112-104 victory as a full team effort with 7 players in double figures. Isaiah Thomas once again led the team in scoring with 25 points (alongside 8 dimes, 4 rebounds and a steal).
Initially, the Heat made clear why they boast the league’s fourth-best defensive rating, keeping things close by pressuring on the perimeter and forcing some turnovers. But it wouldn’t last long. The second quarter erased the notion of closeness with a brutal 27-12 Celtics run.
Miami also continued their curious 2016 offensive trend called Missing Open Shots (0-12 on 3s in the first half, 6-30 for the game from range). Goran Dragic was Miami’s only consistent threat during the whole game due to his cutting abilities and always-adept passing. Hassan Whiteside, a non-factor through the first half, couldn’t stop his team’s bleeding even after coming to life in the second to collect his obligatory empty stats (25 and 17 tonight!). Tyler Zeller (filling in for parentally obligated Al Horford) and Amir Johnson both dragged Whiteside out of his comfort zone – as did the various small-ball lineups Brad Stevens sent out – effectively handicapping his defensive acumen.
Miami regained its spark in the second half due to Dragic, Whiteside and some choice Josh Richardson 3s. Nevertheless, Boston redid most of its second-quarter damage in the fourth once the Heat realized they couldn’t stop Isaiah in the paint. The Celtics never relinquished the lead they established in Q1 – they dared the Heat to beat them with more than their two stars, and Miami blinked first.
Drama threatened in garbage time, with a Marcus Smart/Whiteside tete-a-tete under the basket that earned Smart a flagrant-1, but nothing else came of it. The sparse Miami crowd got loud only then and on the other occasions when Smart made various Heatles’ lives hell (which was friggin’ awesome, and they were hopefully as annoyed as the rest of us by the borderline inexplicable hacking Spoelstra ordered on Smart). Not the prettiest game, but a solid dress rehearsal for the bigger challenge posed by Detroit and Andre Drummond on Wednesday.
- Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder both had well-rounded games tonight, racking up 18-6-2 on 50 percent shooting and 17-4-3 on 55 percent, respectively.
- Brad Stevens should take comfort in tonight’s bench performance – reserves outscored Miami’s B-team 38-28.
- Marcus’s stat lines (12-2-4 tonight) remain a poor indicator of his value. Time and time again he was a wall to do Stan Van Gundy proud against the Heat.
- Isaiah’s 3-point shooting – he went 2-10 this game. His streak of 20-points-or-more games rolls on, but that long-range shot needs to normalize sooner rather than later.
- The defense still isn’t where it should be given this roster’s continuity, and even with Miami having a lukewarm rebounding performance of 41 boards, they still beat Boston’s 40. (These things could bite the team in the ass hard during the postseason if unaddressed.)
A little hobble-step ain’t nothing after a one-hand slam for Jae (but seriously, that wasn’t the bad leg, right?)
Goran, we hardly knew your ankles before Isaiah murdered them:
AVERY GOT MOVES TOO: