Celtics’ leading men too much for Adebayo, Herro as Heat fall 119-111 in Boston
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra began the day by noting the continuity of the competition, how his team has faced the Boston Celtics in Eastern Conference finals in three of the past four seasons.
But Friday night’s game at TD Garden had a decidedly different feel than when the Heat won Game 7 of last season’s East finals, with Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday in Celtics colors and Max Strus and Gabe Vincent missing from the Heat mix that pushed past the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season.
The constant, however, remained the competition.
With a May-in-October feel to it.
So a one-point Heat lead entering the fourth quarter, before the Celtics pulled away for a 119-111 victory.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Spoelstra said.
With Boston selling off much of its depth to acquire Porzingis and Holiday, any Heat edge in this season’s matchups figure to come from Spoelstra’s depth. That depth, at least on this night, was compromised, with Josh Richardson, Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith sidelined.
The Celtics did as needed, maximizing their starters, with Derrick White scoring 28, Jaylen Brown 27, Jayson Tatum 22 and Porzingis and Holiday 17 apiece.
“Firepower,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said, “at all different positions.”
For the Heat, on a night Jimmy Butler was limited to 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting, there were 28 points from Herro and 27 from Bam Adebayo.
“Both teams have changed,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the way this league goes. That’s the way life goes. So they’re different. They’re still enough familiar faces. Their core is the same; our core is the same. We’re a little different, as well. You just want to compete against teams that you respect, that you’ve had battles with. They got the better end of it tonight.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday night’s game:
1. Closing time:The Heat went up 13 early, took a 28-25 lead into the second period, but then trailed 60-55 at halftime, with Boston closing the second quarter on a 17-6 run. From there, the Heat moved to an 88-87 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Then, with the Heat attempting to buy time with their reserves, Boston moved to a six-point lead midway through the fourth and later a 109-101 lead on a White 3-pointer with 4:19 remaining.
But a 3-pointer by Kevin Love later got the Heat within 114-111 with 44.9 seconds to play, with Spoelstra then unsuccessfully challenging a foul called on Butler on the other end.
A pair of White free throws off that unsuccessful challenge put Boston up 116-111, effectively ending it.
Spoelstra’s argument was that his challenge was based on Butler not fouling at the end of a play that otherwise would have been a Boston backcourt violation. Instead, the officials reviewed the start of that sequence and found a foul there.
“I was challenging a foul that was made at halfcourt, not that was made in front of me,” Spoelstra said. “Whether that was a foul or not, I don’t know. But they called a foul at halfcourt that was clearly not a foul. And that’s not the same play. There’s a deflection and it goes to halfcourt and they picked it up and it seemingly was a turnover. I’ve had that explained to me in the coaches’ meetings that it’s not the same play.
2. Less than whole: Already without a pair of prime defenders in Highsmith and Richardson, who were injured the the preseason home finale a week ago, the Heat announced just before tipoff that Martin, who is traveling with the team, would be out with the knee tendinitis that has been an issue since the offseason.
The Heat for the second time in their two games opened with Adebayo, Love, Butler, Herro and Kyle Lowry.
The question next becomes how the Heat approach Saturday’s back end of this initial back-to-back set.
Even with Richardson, Highsmith and Martin out, Heat also had Cole Swider inactive, in order to limit the clock on their two-way players. Jamal Cain and Dru Smith, the Heat’s other two-way players, were active.
As for Martin, Spoelstra called it prudence.
“We want to make sure that it’s not nagging,” Spoelstra said. “And that’s where he is right now. He’s not moving quite as well as he should be at the beginning of the season.”
3. More pointed: After Lowry went to the final ticks for his lone shot attempt in Wednesday’s scoreless season opener, he this time converted an early 3-pointer and later converted a second in the second period.
With Smith also converting a pair of first-half 3-pointers, it helped provide the contributions at a position of need.
Lowry kept going from there, reaching double figures by the midpoint of the third period, far more in attack mode than Wednesday’s opener. He closed with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
4. Either/or?: The Heat starting lineup still has a bit of a wonky either/or feel with Butler and Herro in that unit, as it did last season when Herro was elevated from sixth man.
This time, Herro was up to 14 points on 12 shots by the intermission, at the same time Butler had six on 2-of-6 shooting.
Herro was active to the point of five rebounds and three assists over the first two periods, a stage Butler had two rebounds and one assist.
Herro had 23 points going into the fourth quarter to Butler’s eight.
“Tonight I thought was a good bounce back, being able to get to my spots and make plays or take open shots,” Herro said of his 10-of-20 shooting, after shooting 7 of 24 in Wednesday night’s season-opening victory over the Detroit Pistons at Kaseya Center.
For his part, Butler compensated for his shooting from the field by going 8 of 9 from the line Friday.
“We’ll be fine, man,” Butler said. “We’re one and one.”
5. Attack mode: With Boston playing smaller ball, with Porzingis opening at center and Al Horford playing off the bench, Adebayo took advantage by playing in attack mode, with 15 points and five rebounds by the intermission, getting Porzingis in early foul trouble.
Adebayo also had five of the Heat’s seven first-half free throws.
Adebayo frustrated Porzingis to the point of the Celtics newcomer called for a technical foul after being called for a foul against Adebayo in the third period.
With his 26th point, Adebayo moved into the Heat’s all-time Top 10 in scoring, passing Eddie Jones’ 6,194 points.
He closed 10 of 23 from the field.
“I missed too many chippies today, played through a lot of contact on both ends,” he said. “Build from that and learn your lessons, watch film and figure it out.”