The Miami Heat were in the midst of a furious rally against the Boston Celtics. With just over two minutes left, Miami trailed the Celtics 101-96 and had the ball. Dion Waiters rose for an open 3-point shot. He missed.
On the other side of the court, Kemba Walker drove into the lane. Heat defenders collapsed on him. He kicked it out to Marcus Smart. He made a 3, and Miami was down 104-96 with 1:50 left. The Celtics held on to win 109-101, handing the Heat just their third home loss of the season.
This was Miami’s worst home loss of the season, a game in which they only led briefly during the second quarter. The Celtics scored the first eight points of the game and maintained control the rest of the way. Boston remains the lone top-six Eastern Conference team the Heat have yet to beat.
Boston repeatedly found the seams in the Heat’s zone defense and found key offensive rebounds, including one demoralizing one in the closing seconds of the third quarter that led to a Brad Wanamaker 3-pointer just after Waiters had made a 3. The Celtics also ran screens to put Duncan Robinson on Gordon Hayward defensively. Hayward, whom the Heat tried to sign in 2017, shot 10-of-14 from the field and scored 29 points.
Kendrick Nunn missed his third straight game with his Achilles injury (Waiters has only played in games in which Nunn missed). Waiters scored 11 points off the bench and shot 3-of-11 from downtown, but made some ill-advised choices to put his head down and look to score on several possessions. Even with his questionable decision-making, Waiters played nearly all of the fourth quarter. Tyler Herro was a team-worst -20 on the night, shooting just 3-of-13 from the field.
Tuesday also marked the first time Chris Silva had some non-garbage time minutes in quite a while. Kelly Olynyk did not get off the bench to play against his former team. Bam Adebayo picked up three fouls in the first half, preventing him from playing his usual load of minutes. Silva grabbed five rebounds in 10 minutes.
Overall, Miami’s offense just looked much more stagnant from how it was against the Orlando Magic the night before. The Heat only dished out 15 assists on the night, missing some of the crisp ball movement that has characterized good offensive performances. Dragic found Butler for this nice reverse layup midway through the fourth quarter. Miami needed more.
Dragic led Miami with 23 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field, including 10-for-11 shooting from the foul line. Jimmy Butler added 20, including 10-of-12 from the foul line. But watching Butler and Hayward, the Celtic clearly had the upper hand offensively. Too often, Butler has only scored by going to the basket and drawing fouls. Butler needs to start making some jump shots to open things up for Miami’s offense, especially when Nunn is out.
The Heat will rest until Saturday, when they will visit the Orlando Magic.