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Heat clinch playoff berth with 129-121 win over Celtics

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Despite losing Jimmy Butler in the first half, the Heat delivered a gutsy performance for an exceptional win.

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

The Miami Heat officially clinched a playoff spot tonight with a 129-121 victory against the Boston Celtics to sweep the back-to-back set and avoid the play-in tournament.

First Half:

The Boston Celtics set the tone early scoring an easy five points, but a strange injury to Kemba Walker would slow their momentum — albeit briefly. Evan Fournier would control the Celtics offense, but the Heat wasn’t silent. Strong play from Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo kept Miami one step out of the lead.

Kemba returned to the game and immediately started scoring for the Celtics. But Jimmy Butler’s outside shooting (yes, you read that right) started changing the tides in favor of Miami as the Heat stole the lead and started building.

The Heat reserves, notably Tyler Herro and Dewayne Dedmon were fantastic as they created offense. But despite Miami’s solid offense, Jayson Tatum and Evan Fournier continued to hit their looks and stole back the lead at the start of the second quarter.

The Heat and Celtics would alternate leads fairly often, not giving each other much breathing room. Every time it looked like the Heat might be able to orchestrate a run it was Fournier or Tatum stepping up to halt the progress. Fournier and Tatum combined for 28 points in the half.

I do have to mention the strong first-half play of Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Both contributed at all the right times shifting momentum heading into halftime.

Bam Adebayo had 15 points in the first half, and he did it pretty quietly. When Bam is able to penetrate and get a mismatch, he can do work from multiple areas. He’s able to bring the ball out for some smooth midrange looks, and slash to really punish in the paint. Bam’s recent aggressiveness should serve Miami well down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Jimmy would collide headfirst with Marcus Smart and be rattled briefly. Thankfully he’d stay on the court to finish up the half. Still, the Heat managed to take a 62-56 lead into the half.

Second Half:

Kendrick Nunn set the tone for the Heat to start the second half, scoring some easy buckets inside and doing so with a little bit of oomph.

The Celtics didn’t stall completely though. With Jimmy heading to the locker room after indicating to Erik Spoelstra that he had trouble seeing, the Heat wouldn’t have his calming presence to lean on and the Celtics took advantage erasing the Heat’s lead to get within one point.

The Heat and Celtics started to get a little bit chippy midway through the third, with fouls being exchanged left and right. It’s strange to write, but Duncan Robinson was actually the focal point of multiple scuffles. Yes, that Duncan Robinson!

Kemba Walker kept things competitive while Miami worked to exploit Bam’s mismatch on the other end. While at times it didn’t feel like it, this stayed a very close game for a while.

Duncan would spark a run for the Heat towards the end of the third quarter hitting multiple threes and a beautiful turnaround fadeaway. That coupled with a Herro dish to Ariza, some casual Bam dominance, and a big Goran three gave the Heat a 14 point as they surged into the fourth quarter.

After a really quiet first half, Goran came through with some nice offense for the Heat hitting 3 threes in what seemed like less than a minute to start the fourth. But it wasn’t just Goran, Tyler also got in on the fun stunning the Celtics.

Herro had over 24 points and 11 rebounds. I’m starting to get the feeling that Tyler really dislikes the Celtics as he brings it against them every time they matchup.

The Celtics attempted to mount a bit of a comeback down the stretch off strong play from Walker and Tatum, but their lack of defense kept them from doing any real damage. Well, that and Goran continuing to light them up in true Dragon fashion.

This was a gutsy performance for the Heat after losing Jimmy Butler and an important win to clinch a playoff berth. The season isn’t over yet, but the Heat finally appears steady after an incredibly shaky season.