Heat lose air of dominance with 116-99 loss to Celtics, series lead now 3-1
MIAMI – In a nothing-is-simple season, the Miami Heat were unable to push the easy button on Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics.
So no sweep by the No. 8 seed in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals, just a 116-99 loss that sends the series to TD Garden for an 8:30 p.m. Game 5 on Thursday. Without a win there, the Heat would return home for an 8:30 p.m. Game 6 Saturday.
With the opportunity to earn a week off before the June 1 start of the NBA Finals, with the Denver Nuggets already resting for that series after completing a 4-0 sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the West finals, the Heat instead fell to 5-1 at home this postseason.
Unlike the series’ first three games, there was no Celtics capitulation this time, instead looking closer to the team that eliminated the Heat in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Doing what they had done best to get to this series, the Celtics rode solid defense, productive 3-point shooting and the hot hand of Jayson Tatum to move within 3-1.
Tatum closed with 34 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including 5 of 9 on 3-pointers, with the Celtics closing 19 of 45 from beyond the arc and limiting the Heat to .436 shooting.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 29 points, with the Heat closing 8 of 32 from beyond the arc. The Heat also got 17 points from Gabe Vincent and 16 from Caleb Martin, on a night center Bam Adebayo was limited to 10.
Five Degrees of Heat from Tuesday’s game:.
1. Closing time: The Heat led 29-23 after the first period and 60-56 at halftime, before going into the fourth quarter down 88-79.
The Heat trimmed their deficit to 88-83 on a short jumper from guard Kyle Lowry with 9:41 to play, but the Celtics then scored the next 12 points for a 100-83 lead.
Earlier, the Celtics strung together an 18-0 run to move to a 70-61 lead with 6:24 to play in the third quarter.
The Heat stopped the run on a driving Butler layup, his first basket since the opening period.
But Adebayo then was called for his fourth foul with 5:39 to play in the third, shortly after Vincent was called for his fourth foul.
2. Stepping up: After a mostly passive first half, Butler erupted for 15 third-quarter points to move to 24 through three quarters.
He then sat at the start of the fourth quarter, returning with 9:04 to play and the Heat down 92-83.
With a lack of scoring elsewhere, the Celtics were largely able to focus and even double-team Butler without much in the way of consequence, particularly with the Heat uneven with their 3-point shooting.
Butler closed 9 of 21 from the field, but shot 10 of 12 on 3-pointers.
3. Martin again: Continuing to play as the ultimate value player as he completes the first season on the three-year, $20.4 million contract he signed last summer, Martin again sparked the Heat on both ends of the floor.
This time he made all six of his first-half shots, two of them 3-pointers, but that point already his 10th game scoring in double figures this postseason.
The Heat again opened with Kevin Love at power forward, but quickly moved to the versatility of Martin. Love had been on the injury report with the leg strain that took him out for the balance of Sunday’s Game 3 in the first quarter.
4. Vincent active: Vincent again showed he is more than a placeholder as the Heat’s starting point guard, up to 11 points and four assists by halftime.
Shorthanded in the backcourt with Tyler Herro (hand) and Victor Oladipo (knee) out, Vincent again played alongside Lowry for extended stretches, with Lowry closing the first half with four assists and four rebounds.
Vincent then turned his ankle midway through the fourth quarter, attempted to stay in the game, but then had to briefly exit, before later returning.
5. The trifecta: West Palm Beach’s Brooks Koepka, who was at the the Florida Panthers’ Stanley Cup playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers on Monday night in Sunrise, this time took in the Heat game courtside. The appearances came after winning the PGA Championship on Sunday in upstate New York.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel also sat courtside.