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Celtics edge Heat, 112-108

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The Heat overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, but could not get over the hump.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat battled back from a 10-point early deficit in the fourth quarter and even gained the lead midway through the period. But as it turns out, not having Dion Waiters to close a game really hurts.

Miami had the ball the semi-transition with 40 seconds left, down 106-108 after Josh Richardson blocked an Isaiah Thomas layup attempt. As the Heat brought the ball up court, the 5-foot-9 Thomas was briefly guarding Hassan Whiteside. But on a possession in which both teams looked discombobulated, the Heat couldn’t get the ball to Whiteside before Jae Crowder switched onto him. Miami’s possession ended with James Johnson shooting a contested 20-foot jumper, which missed.

Even after that shot, the Heat seemingly had a chance when Marcus Smart made one of two free throws after an intentional Miami foul. But Whiteside grabbed the rebound just as the ball bounced off the rim, and the referees called it a goaltending. Instead of being down by three, the Heat were down four with 20 seconds left.

And it ended in a 112-108 decision, with the Heat dropping to 35-38 on the season, now having lost three of their last four games. Miami currently stands just a half-game ahead of ninth-placed Chicago, and the Heat’s next game is against the tenth-seeded Detroit Pistons.

This loss was tough to swallow because Miami did a lot of things right. The Heat showed resolve after the Celtics dominated the third quarter, turning a five-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead. James Johnson and Tyler Johnson were tremendous, especially in the fourth quarter. Tyler finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, four rebounds and three steals. James had 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field, five rebounds and six assists.

Just look at these two fourth-quarter plays. James Johnson looked like LeBron James, and Tyler Johnson looked like Dwyane Wade.

But the Heat also did enough things wrong to lose a road game against a team that now stands percentage points behind the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings. Miami turned the ball over 15 times, including four from James Johnson and five from Goran Dragic. Dragic played better than his previous two games, but still shot 1-for-5 from beyond the arc and only had 13 points. Josh Richardson had flashes of brilliance, including a nice steal and breakaway dunk in the first quarter, but Dragic undoubtedly plays better with Waiters by his side.

Whiteside continued to play with his right hand taped after sustaining a laceration two games ago. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, 15 rebounds and two assists, including a nice find on a Luke Babbitt 3. Sunday, he displayed his full repertoire, making nice hook shots and going up strong for layups and dunks. His backup, Willie Reed, had a solid game of seven points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.

In a game with huge implications for the Heat’s playoff hopes, Miami will visit the Detroit Pistons Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.