Through three quarters, the Celtics shot 50 percent from the field led by Jayson Tatum (28 points) and Derrick White (23 points) despite missing four rotation players. They appeared to have control over the game, but in the 4th quarter, they only scored 13 points on 5/21 shooting and would lose the game 98-95.
Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 30 points and 15 rebounds. Haywood Highsmith scored 15 points off the bench including four threes, and although Tyler Herro struggled most of the game, he hit two clutch shots at the end, and Miami escaped with a three-point win.
Payton Pritchard played 42 minutes and finished with 10 points, 4 assists, and 7 rebounds. Jayson Tatum’s numbers — 31 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists — were great, but he only scored three in the 4th quarter and finished with seven turnovers. White had 23 points and 6 assists but went scoreless in the final period. Boston’s 13 4th quarter points were the lowest quarter total of any game this season.
The Celtics were at a massive disadvantage playing on a second night of a back-to-back while missing Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Malcolm Brogdon. For Miami, Jimmy Butler was ruled out an hour before tipoff, and perhaps the handful of Celtic injuries influenced that decision.
The Miami Heat haven’t played like a championship contender through 48 games this season. Their defense is elite, ranking third in the NBA and first in January, but they have a soggy cornflake offense that ranks 28th. They play slow, can’t get to the free throw line, and guys like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Victor Oladipo haven’t shot threes at an efficient clip. This was their fourth and final meeting, with the Celtics handily winning the first two and narrowly losing the third in overtime.
The Celtics trailed 30-32 after the 1st quarter despite holding the Heat to 40 percent shooting. Tatum played all but 18 seconds and led the team with 13 points. For Miami, all nine players who played scored, and Strus led them with 13 points. He would have had more, but foolishly tried to score on Derrick “Perimeter Mutombo” White:
Another night, another Derrick White highlight block. pic.twitter.com/hxAuMA1mII— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) January 25, 2023
“He can’t jump over a small town phone book.” An excellent call by NBC Boston’s Eddie House in just his second game doing color commentary.
Bam Adebayo scored 7 points to open the 2nd quarter and the Heat jumped out to a 44-39 lead. Justin Jackson hit a corner three at the 6:11 mark, his first non-garbage time field goal of the season. The Celtics trailed most of the quarter but went on an 11-0 run in the final two minutes to lead 58-50 at halftime.
The run started with back-to-back contested threes from Tatum and Pritchard. The next possession was a crazy sequence that began with Hauser blocking his second shot of the game. Timelord got the loose ball and made a horrible outlet pass that got intercepted, but he proceeded to blocked a Strus layup attempt, then when Tatum got the ball, he settled things down and converted an and-1 layup. Luke Kornet punctuated the run, diving hard down the lane and finishing the dunk to beat the buzzer, and the Celtics took an 8 point lead.
Tatum had a huge first half, scoring 21 points on 7/12 shooting with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Miami shot only 32 percent from the field and made only one basket in the last five minutes. Hauser was 0/5 in 17 minutes, but the eye test showed he played one of his best defensive halves of the season, highlighted by this possession against Oladipo:
Great defense from Hauser 1v1 with Oladipo pic.twitter.com/eJnlEXaM5P— Pull up shoot (@NElGHT_) January 25, 2023
Derrick White’s three at the 9:12 mark of the 3rd quarter gave Boston a 14-point lead. Other than that, there wasn’t much scoring as the teams combined for just three field goals in the first five minutes of the second half. It was a drudging stretch of bricks, fouls, and extended replay reviews.
Bam kept Miami in the game, scoring 8 straight points and deterring all shots at the rim on defense. When he left the game at the 2:23 mark, Kornet got a dunk, Tatum found a driving lane for a layup, and White converted an and-1 floater. But Miami finally would heat up (pun intended) offensively, as Oladipo hit two threes and Haywood Highsmith hit one, and Boston led 81-75 going into the 4th quarter.
Tatum had played 32 out of 36 minutes and sat to start the fourth. The Celtics needed offense from somewhere, and it started with Pritchard hitting a three, then White found Robert Williams on an alley oop to give Boston an 87-77 lead with 8:46 remaining.
THROW IT UP AND ROB WILL THROW. IT. DOWN. pic.twitter.com/r4Ni4ZU9Su— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 25, 2023
But as we learned from last year’s excruciating Game 7 in the conference finals, Miami doesn’t go down easy. They went on a 10-0 run that featured two Highsmith threes and a thunderous dunk from Bam. The game was tied at 87 with 5:44 to play.
After the timeout, Bam hit an elbow jumper to give Miami its first lead of the half, and on Miami’s subsequent offensive trip, Tyler Herro had the ball in a high pick and roll, and with Williams in drop coverage, he had an open three-point attempt. Herro was having a dreadful night, shooting 2/15 from the floor, but he swished this deep ball, and the Heat led by 5 with just under four minutes to play.
Tatum hit an and-1 floater to break the 15-0 run, and a Grant Williams side step three with 42 seconds remaining tied the score at 95. But on the next play, Bam hit a free throw line jumper that proved to be the nail in the coffin, and the Heat would win the game 98-95. Pritchard had a chance to tie the game with 0.6 remaining but his shot fell well short.
Miami didn’t play a particularly great offensive 4th quarter — it was the Celtics who ran out of steam. The Heat had a massive bench advantage, outscoring the Celtics 39-10. Amazingly enough, this is the Celtics first loss on the second night of a back-to-back, as they were previously 7-0.
Boston next plays the Knicks this Thursday night at 7:30 pm EST.