Kelly Olynyk returned to the TD Garden in Miami’s starting lineup with the playoffs on the line, and lended the Celtics a hand in the playoff push like it’s 2016-17.
Olynyk landed in Kyrie Irving’s crosshairs on a vital possession. Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade willed the Heat within three after trailing by over 20 multiple times. Then Olynyk shuffled his feet, trying and failing to stay upright. Irving converted a three-point play through him, then Olynyk drove to the paint and tossed a kick-out pass to the fourth row to seal a 110-105 win for the Celtics.
Irving dropped five threes, 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Horford filled a vital role passing out of the post, dropping 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his first triple double since 2015.
Jayson Tatum (19 points) rode Miami’s three-point woes (27%) into the transition game, which set the table for a game-opening 20-4 run by Boston. Tatum blew by Dion Waiters and Miami’s front line for a slam, then returned the favor to Horford for the assist with a transition lob. His next run produced a free throw, while the Heat lit the transition fire with their 0-for-7 start from three.
Tatum scored eight points in six minutes, then flipped a behind-the-back pass to Gordon Hayward for another in his recent string of strong dunks, after Irving jumped to the rafters to save a loose ball. Irving splashed his second straight three, then Tatum followed with his own to build a 28-8 lead.
Wade entered to cheers and stopped the bleeding, hitting a turnaround jumper and cutting off a pass by Hayward to feed Dragic in transition — Miami’s first run. Hassan Whiteside added a layup and Boston led by 19 after one.
Wade held the ball for Miami’s best stretches, as the Heat switched to a 2-3 zone and forced a turnover on Horford. Wade threw a pair of successful lobs to Bam Adebayo early in the second for a dunk and foul, then flushed a pair of floaters for a 7-0 run.
Irving put his foot down, burying back-to-back threes to make it hard to realize that Stevens switched to Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele in the front court. Adebayo, Wade and Dragic seized the half with a 9-2 run in the final two minutes. Irving turned the ball over after Adebayo splashed a pair of free throws, Dragic finished again in transition and Wade hit another floater. Waiters pulled Miami within 14 points on a corner three with seven seconds left.
Dragic unloaded 12 points in the first six minutes of the third quarter to propel Miami back into the game. Smart paced the Celtics with a pair of threes, but Dragic turned turnovers by Irving and Smart into layups. He created two more with a lob to Adebayo and pulled the Heat within six points before Smart shut off his run with a block with 5:30 remaining.
Hayward and Irving traded threes, re-establishing a double-digit Celtics lead. Wade refused to fade in his final game in Boston, landing two more assists to Adebayo before James Johnson drilled a three to cap the third down eight.
Miami’s zone stayed intact into the final frame and it opened the door to Boston’s wings, where Tatum and Rozier came through. Tatum drilled his first shot since the first on a kick-out from Hayward. Dragic and Olynyk responded with a pair of long bombs, but they lagged at 29 percent from three compared to Boston’s 47 midway through the fourth.
Whiteside blocked Baynes and Marcus Morris inside, redirecting Boston to the perimeter as Wade pulled Miami within six on a floater and feed to Dragic on the cut. Olynyk leaned into Rozier on the three-point line and the Heat made it a 95-92 game at the free throw line.
Horford, playing the middle of the zone, found Tatum in the corner for another three. Rozier ran to the same spot to drill another from Irving, sending Boston back up by nine. Horford reached 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists late in the game for his second career triple double.
Dragic and Wade paired for one last run on a layup and turnaround, the former reaching 30 points. The latter tipped his own miss back for his second straight bucket to reach within 106-102. With Olynyk on the ball, eyeing a man in the right corner, he fired into the stands and sealed Miami’s fate as its comeback fell short.
The Celtics and Heat rematch in Miami on Wednesday night, another crucial matchup for playoff positioning.