Admittedly, most Bostonians' minds were elsewhere this Super Bowl Sunday. The Patriots are looking to claim their fourth NFL title, and their first in the 10 years since a Super Bowl XXXIX 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Still, the Celtics sat just 2 1/2 games out of the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot coming in.
The 20-26 Heat came into the TD Garden early this afternoon with little to show for over their last seven days. After a 96-84 win over the Chicago Bulls last Sunday, the Heat dropped home matches to the Milwaukee Bucks (109-102 on Tuesday) and the Dallas Mavericks (93-72 on Friday). The 16-29 Boston Celtics had won just six of their last 21 coming into the game.
The first period would see Chris Bosh lead all players with eight points on three-of-five shooting, as six Miami players each grabbed at least two rebounds to lead Boston in the category, 15-to-11. The Celtics made just five-of-22 shots, finishing the quarter trailing 25-15.
The difference between Miami with Hassan Whiteside in the lineup versus Miami without Hassan Whiteside in the lineup became more apparent to me through this quarter. Although it wasn't his more remarkable frames recently, statswise, my attention was drawn more to what he did away from the ball. He had four points and three rebounds, but deflected a couple of passes and "discouraged" Boston shots, although he didn't have any actual blocks in the first half.
Another thing I noticed in the first quarter was Norris Cole. The first time I saw him he grabbed a rebound at full speed, sprinted down the court, and, without considering passing the ball, badly missed a layup. The next time down, he threw the ball directly out of bounds.
By contrast, This Tyler Johnson character may be the best guard on the team right now. Miami would be foolish to not extend this kid's contract after it expires later this week. The period ended on a Chris Andersen three-pointer (now two-of-three on the season) and a Tyler Johnson blocked shot.
The second quarter would see the Heat outscore the Celtics, 19-16, due in no small part to Chris Bosh going ice cold and making just one-of-eight from the field. Johnson continued to turn heads by scoring four points with four rebounds, a steal and three assists in just seven minutes.
Miami outscored Boston in the first half 44-31, and outshot them 38% to 31%. Despite his cold spell, Bosh still led all scorers with 11 points. Seven Heat players had collected at least three rebounds, including all four guards in rotation.
As in a lot of games this season, it seems, Miami let the Celtics get back into it in the third quarter. Boston outscored the Heat, 28-17. Avery Bradley caught fire, scoring 10 points on five-of-six shooting, with two steals. Brandon Bass made three-of-four to pitch in with six points. Whiteside had a good showing as well, with a perfect three-for-three showing from the field and two blocked shots.
Boston made 55% of their shots in the frame, by that point matching the Heat's 39% shooting percentage for the whole contest. They made their first seven shots before their first miss. Miami found themselves clinging to a slim two-point margin, 61-59 as the two clubs headed toward the final quarter.
After hanging tight for a little bit, the Heat put some distance between themselves and the upstart Celtics. Johnson led all players with eight points on three-of-four shooting with three rebounds, an assist and a steal for the period. Whiteside had six with four boards, while Tyler Zeller had five points. Miami won by eight points after outscoring the Celtics 22-16 in the fourth quarter.
Boston's 75 points were nine points fewer than their next worst game, when they scored 84 points in a 100-84 loss on December 21st, also against Miami. March 12th, 2013 was the last time they scored less than 75 in a regular season game, in a 100-74 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. This was the second time this season the Heat have held their opponent to 75 points. They defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 78-75 on January 13th.