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Heat humbled again by Celtics, with 102-88 loss putting season on brink

MIAMI – The next time the Miami Heat play at Kaseya Center things could look a lot different – and for more than the plans for a new scoreboard.

Down 3-1 to the Boston Celtics in this best-of-seven opening-round Eastern Conference playoff series after Monday night’s 102-88 home drubbing, the Heat only will play at home again this season with a Wednesday night Game 5 victory at TD Garden.

Based on the lopsided scores of the Heat’s losses the past two games – with the deficit on Monday night cresting at 28 –  the expiration clock on their season is ticking.


“Our guys really want to get this thing back to Miami and have just a great game in front of our fans,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our team really wants to play well in front of our fans, so that’s the motivation, to get back here.”

After a pair of 20-point losses in the series, including one in Saturday night’s Game 3, the Heat this time could not take advantage even with the Celtics losing center Kristaps Porzingis for the night in the second period with calf tightness.

No matter, not only a night when guard Derrick White went off for 22 first-half points for the Celtics on the way to a career-high 38, supported by 20 from Jayson Tatum and 17 from Jaylen Brown.

Again playing in the injury absences of Jimmy Butler (knee) and Terry Rozier (neck), the Heat lacked enough offense to compete, with Bam Adebayo closing with 25 points and 17 rebounds, Tyler Herro with 19 points and Caleb Martin with 18.

“We’re going in the lion’s den,” Adebayo said. “Everyone knows what’s at stake.”

Compounding matters was Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. being unable to play in the fourth quarter.

“It was just my hip,” Jaquez said after being limited to 22:10. “In the beginning of the third quarter I felt something give in my hip.”

After making it to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago and NBA Finals last season, this continues to have the look of a major step backward, which could have Heat President Pat Riley soon enough considering anything and everything, including what might come next for Butler, Herro and even impending free agents such as Martin and Haywood Highsmith.

For now the focus will be on forcing a Friday Game 6 back at Kaseya Center – against what would appear to be the longest of odds Wednesday night against the top-seeded Celtics.

“We’ll just wrap our minds around getting one game in Boston,” Herro said, “and figuring it out from there.”

Five Degrees of Heat from Monday night’s playoff game:

1. Closing time: The Celtics went up 15 early and led 34-24 at the end of the opening period and then pushed to a 53-36 halftime lead.

The Celtics then pushed their lead to 26 in the third quarter, before Boston went into the fourth up 81-59 – the Heat with only 35 points in the middle two quarters.

The Heat then staged a rally within 91-78 with 5:21 to play.

But with 5:04 to play, Adebayo was called for a flagrant foul for a dead-ball push on Tatum. Boston from there pushed their lead back to 19.

“I don’t even know,” Adebayo said when asked about being assessed the flagrant. “We’re gonna move on from that.”

It added up to the Heat’s sixth consecutive home playoff loss, with the Heat leading for only 16 total seconds in their two home games in this series.

“Offensively we struggled again,” Spoelstra said. “We do need to put some points on the board.”

2. Lonely feeling: While Herro scored nine points in his first 6:47, at that stage he stood 4 of 5 from the field, with the rest of his teammates 2 of 10.

Support never arrived beyond the contribution of Adebayo.

That left the Heat unable to compete with White, who had 16 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting that included 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.

Herro and White then converged on an odd second-period sequence, when Herro committed a turnover by throwing the ball off White’s head, and White then converted his sixth  3-pointer on the other end.

White closed 15 of 26 from the field and 8 of 15 on 3-pointers.

Herro finished 8 of 17 from the field.

“Every game I kinda had the same mindset of just trying to be aggressive and reading what the game is telling you – not forcing anything and just doing what I need to do,” White said. “I thought I got a couple of good looks early and the team did a good job of finding me and empowering me to stay aggressive.”

3. Not functional: For the Heat, the personnel shortage transcended Butler and Rozier.

Kevin Love lasted only 1:44 in his initial stint, the Celtics’ depth of scoring and athleticism rendering Love’s defensive presence moot. Love later returned once Porzingis was lost for the night. Love was limited to 6:25 of action.

Then, with 2:20 to play in the opening period, the Heat subbed in Patty Mills insead of Duncan Robinson, yet another sign that Robinson’s back has him far less than functional, having gone without a shot in Game 4.

Robinson did not enter until the middle of the second, his back limiting him to a single stint. He played 2:52, missing his lone shot, a 3-point attempt.

In essence, that left the Heat without four prime rotation elements who helped push them to their 46-36 regular-season record.

4. Porzingis out: Porzingis was lost for the night late in the second quarter, when he limped to the locker room with what the Celtics listed as tightness in his right calf. He left the arena in a walking boot.

Porzingis earlier appeared to take a misstep on Herro’s heel, his night limited to 13 minutes, seven points on 1-of-5 shooting and three rebounds.

He was replaced in the Celtics’ lineup at the start of the second half by Al Horford.

“Anytime that any of your guys go back, especially him, the way he was walking, definitely concerning for me,” Horford said.

5. Adebayo’s effort: With his fourth point, Adebayo moved past Chris Bosh (1,163) for fourth place on the Heat all-time playoff scoring list.

In addition, the double-double was the 31st in Adebayo’s playoff career, tying LeBron James’ Heat franchise career record.

Adebayo closed 11 of 22 from the field, including a 3-pointer, also with five assists.

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