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Heat late rally falls short against Celtics

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Miami fell behind by 22 points in the third quarter.

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat came into the fourth quarter down 19 points to the Boston Celtics. At the 4:32 mark, a Dion Waiters jumper cut that deficit to 99-94. And the Heat had two chances in the final 70 seconds to cut into a 105-99 Boston lead.

For Miami’s first attempt, a Waiters 3-pointer misfired. And after the Celtics came up empty on the other side of the floor, Justise Winslow drove toward the basket in a semi-transition play. But Kyrie Irving knocked the ball out of Winslow’s hands, forcing a costly turnover.

The Heat fell, 107-99, and finished their four-game road trip that started last week with a 1-3 record.

This game at turns had some of the Heat’s best basketball — their runs in the second and fourth quarters, tight defensive rotations — and some of their worst. Miami committed 19 turnovers, some of them truly boneheaded. Hassan Whiteside travelled about 30 feet from the basket in one case. And more than seven minutes into the third quarter, Miami had scored a grand total of six points.

That’s how a 50-50 halftime score becomes a 22-point Celtics lead in the third quarter.

The starters played so poorly that Erik Spoelstra subbed in Dwyane Wade and Tyler Johnson fewer than two minutes into the third quarter. By the midway point of that quarter, Spoelstra had Josh Richardson in with four reserves. But he waited too long before inserting Waiters, who could’ve helped Miami’s sputtering third-quarter offense. When he finally entered the game, Waiters did help — he finished with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field.

At this point, Waiters has proven he should move up in the rotation. I would start him over Rodney McGruder.

But the rotation and lineup changes shouldn’t stop there. James Johnson was one of the worst culprits during the Heat’s lethargic starts to the first and third quarters, committing five turnovers in 18 minutes. Fortunately for the Heat, Derrick Jones Jr. filled in admirably with 18 points, including plenty of dunks.

Although Hassan Whiteside had some nice moments in the second quarter, he turned into a ghost in the third period. Bam Adebayo played 27 minutes to Whiteside’s 20, and Adebayo played with consistent intensity to bring the Heat back. During one fourth-quarter stretch, Adebayo earned three straight trips to the foul line, and he converted on five of his six attempts.

And finally, Winslow had a scoreless first half, and he was one of the two starters Spoelstra yanked from the floor fewer than two minutes into the third period. Winslow played noticeably better in the fourth period, directing the offense and even scoring eight points. But it was ultimately too little, too late for Winslow.

The Heat need their two fourth-year backcourt mates, Winslow and Richardson, to play well. And tonight, neither of them did. Richardson shot just 4-of-13 from the floor, a bad shooting performance somewhat made up for with his three 3-pointers. Waiters was the Heat’s best guard Monday evening.

Miami will return home to host the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.