Heat seize 2-0 East finals lead with dramatic 111-105 victory in Boston
BOSTON – After two the hard way, the Miami Heat are now two victories from a trip to the NBA Finals.
With Friday night’s 111-105 victory over the Boston Celtics, the Heat swept the first two games at TD Garden, with the next two at Kaseya Center on Sunday and Tuesday night in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
After falling to the Celtics in seven games in last season’s East finals, the Heat for a second consecutive game showed moxie, poise and determination in the game’s decisive closing minutes.
It was a game of wild swings early – a 21-1 Celtics run followed by a 19-2 Heat run – before a second consecutive tight finish in the series.
Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo both fulfilled the box score for the Heat, Butler with 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Adebayo with 22 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. The Heat also got a career-playoff-high 25 points from Caleb Martin and 15 from Duncan Robinson.
The Celtics were led by 34 points from Jayson Tatum, also getting 16 from Jaylen Brown.
Heat guard Gabe Vincent helped put it away with four late points.
Five Degrees of Heat from Friday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Celtics led 25-24 after the first quarter, before the Heat moved to a 54-52 halftime lead. It was a first half of wild swings, with the Celtics opening the second period with a 16-3 run and the Heat closing it with a 26-10 surge. Boston then went into the fourth quarter up 83-75.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra then opted to rest Butler at the start of the fourth, with Butler entering with 7:41 remaining and the Heat down 93-87.
Eventually, with 4:06 to play and the Heat down 98-96, Spoelstra unsuccessfully challenged what was ruled an offensive foul on Jimmy Butler on a 3-point attempt.
But the Heat then got a pair of Butler jumpers to go up 102-100 with 2:19 to play, with an Adebayo dunk putting the Heat up 105-100 with 55 seconds to play.
Fouled on a 3-point attempt, Tatum then converted all three foul shots to draw Boston within 105-103 with 49 seconds to play.
But back came Vincent with a 20-foot conversion for a 107-103 lead with 35.1 seconds remaining, which was offset by a pair of Tatum free throws.
Eventually, Vincent got to the line with 19.3 seconds left, converting both foul shots, to again make it a four-point lead.
2. Straight up: Instead of double-teaming Butler, which led to a flurry of Heat 3-point conversions in Game 1, the Celtics played it straight up at Friday night’s outset, switching when necessary.
By the midpoint of the opening period, that had Butler seeking out matchups against Celtics guard Derrick White, Boston’s defensive weak link at that stage.
That came after the Celtics abandoned their big lineup 4:25 in, with center Robert Williams going to the bench in favor of White.
Butler also continued to take the defensive assignment against Tatum.
At times, the fatigue of such heavy lifting became apparent, a potential factor for the 33-year-old forward in a series with only single-day breaks between games.
3. Martin time: While Kevin Love continues to start for the Heat, it is when Martin enters and the Heat go smaller that good things continue to happen.
This time it was Martin with 12 points in his first nine minutes, offsetting the Celtics’ push to a 12-point lead early in the second period.
Martin, whose energy was unrelenting, became the 24th Heat player with a 25-point playoff game.
4. Filling the box score: Adebayo was up to eight points, nine rebounds and five assists by the intermission.
He also showed his defensive versatility, taking the defensive assignment against Brown when the Celtics opened the second half with their small lineup that had Williams out of the mix.
But the shot was not always there for Adebayo, who stood 5 of 14 from the field entering the fourth quarter.
It was Adebayo’s 23rd career double-double, moving him past Dwyane Wade for second on the Heat all-time playoff list, behind only LeBron James’ 31.
5. Second to one: A Robinson second period 3-pointer tied him with Mario Chalmers for second on the Heat all-time postseason 3-pointer list, with a fourth-quarter conversion moving him past Chalmers.
Robinson entered with 116 career playoff 3-pointers. Chalmers had 117. The Heat’s all-time postseason leader is James with 123. The three are the only Heat players with 100 or more career playoff 3-pointers.
Robinson in December broke Tim Hardaway’s franchise career regular-season 3-point record.