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A long day at the end of a long trip finishes with a win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Heat

Payton Pritchard beat the buzzer to send Boston home on a three-game win streak

NBA: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

1. For a moment, it was unclear if the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat would even play on Wednesday night. Brad Stevens said postgame that he was unsure as late as 30 minutes before tip-off.

Ultimately, the Celtics and Heat players issued a joint statement explaining their decision to play, while highlighting the continued fight for equality in the United States of America.

2. As for the game, the Celtics were again led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They combined for 48 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists.

On a rare off-shooting night from Brown, Tatum carried the offense for large portions of the game. He had the jumper going, as per usual, but what was really nice was him working inside for baskets.

With Miami starting both Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, it gives teams a couple of places to attack. Herro was guarding Tatum to start. Tatum can shoot jumpers over Herro all game, but it’s nice to see him use his size to get in the paint for the floater:

This one comes from the second half. Tatum again has Herro. This time, he goes to the baseline spin for the easy dunk:

Tatum has hit the point where he’s almost impossible to guard for many teams. If you put a small on him, he treats them like Herro in the above clips. Put a big on him and he drives by them or uses the dribble to create space for the jumper. That’s a sign he’s reaching un-guardable status.

3. Jaylen Brown has been so hot, it felt weird to see him go just 8-of-23 from the field. The good news is that he stayed within the flow of the offense. Brown could force it more, and that might even be welcomed at times, but he’s continually making the right play. Against Miami, that showed up with Brown functioning as a playmaker.

On this play, Brown could let this shot fly. It’s a perfectly good shot, and he’s had it going. Instead, he makes the extra pass to Tatum in the corner. Good shot vs great shot:

Next trip down, Brown gets it in transition and hits the paint to find Daniel Theis for the corner three:

One more, because it shows just how well Brown sees the floor now. Theis makes the delayed cut as the drive starts and Brown hits him with the on-time pass:

4. The Celtics tweaked their defense from the Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Heat. A few months ago, Boston was pressuring up on Bam Adebayo on every possession. If Adebayo drew a big, he was regularly driving by that player. Without that big in place to help, Adebayo got whatever he wanted at the basket. If he had a smaller player, he was working the DHO game to get his guards and wings easy baskets.

In this game, the Celtics were dropping off Adebayo the moment he picked up his dribble. That put them in position to help on the hand-offs, as well as jamming up the passing lanes. Adebayo hit a couple of jumpers, but Boston will happily concede those. It was a subtle, but important defensive tweak from the Celtics.

5. Let’s talk the man of a million nicknames: Payton Pritchard. The rookie point guard has been so good for Boston, that he’s now closing halves and games. Sometimes, he gets it done as a scorer, other times, it’s as a playmaker. In this one, he made plays both ways.

This is fun because Pritchard pulls a Dragic on Goran Dragic:

This is a good example of not settling for the jumper. Pritchard keeps his dribble alive long enough on his drive to open up Robert Williams for the dunk:

6. Grant Williams got a DNP against the Detroit Pistons a couple games back. That seems to have gotten him back on track. Williams said he needed to “get of my head and just play” and he’s doing just that.

This is a really nice play to drive the closeout and then find Tristan Thompson with the short lob:

On defense, he’s back to making the sort of heads-up plays we had come to expect. Miami had been killing Boston on lobs to Bam Adebayo at the rim. Williams knows what is coming here and blows up the play:

Bonus: Great drive and dunk by Tatum to end the clip!

7. It wasn’t the best game for Marcus Smart. He seemed kind of out of sorts all night. His defensive impact was almost nil, which was the most surprising part of all. That included some really bad fouls, especially fouling Tyler Herro from about 60 feet from the basket as the first half ended.

Much like Brown being due for an off-night shooting-wise, Smart was due to play kind of a stinker. Let’s hope that’s all it was. Smart is too important for Boston to survive many games like this from him.

8. With 4:35 to play in the fourth quarter, the Celtics fell behind 95-92. Given Boston’s recent history of late-game struggles against Miami, it was fair to question if this was danger time.

Instead, the Celtics ripped off a 13-0 run to take a 10-point lead with just over a minute to play. It looked like Boston had reversed course and was going to cruise to a win late.

Nope. Miami came back with a 10-0 run over a 56-second period to tie the game at 105.

The Celtics won (more on that in a minute!), but this was a disturbing lack of focus to close out the game. Maybe it was being tired at the end of a long day at the end of a long road trip. That would be a more than fair excuse. If it wasn’t that, Boston needs to figure out how to close out these games.

9. Thankfully, Payton Pritchard game to the rescue and sent the Celtics back to Boston on a three-game win streak:

10. The season is now one-eighth over. The Celtics are 6-3. They lost twice at the buzzer and once via a blowout. They’ve also played more road games than any team in the NBA. While road games aren’t what they usually are, it still involves travel and all the hassles of being away from home.

Big picture, Boston is in good shape and it looks like they are starting to round into form. With some reinforcements on the way eventually, the Celtics look positioned to once again be in the mix for the NBA Finals.

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