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Heat squeak past Celtics 130-124, move two games ahead of Boston for seventh seed

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Miami was in control of the game throughout, but Boston made it interesting near the end.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

Despite a second-half push, the Miami Heat nudged past the Boston Celtics, 130-124, in a nationally-televised contest on Sunday afternoon. Miami’s 130 points were the second-most the team has scored all season — four fewer than its 134 it had against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 12, 2021.

Boston, who trailed by as much as 26, cut it to 113-107 with 4:51 remaining. Jimmy Butler’s 3-pointer — his first make from beyond the arc since April 13 — increased the lead to nine with 4:31 to go.

The Celtics didn’t go away.

Fournier, who finished with team highs in points (30) and 3-pointers (7), cut it to 118-112 with over three minutes to go. Adebayo’s second-chance layup plus a made jumper on the following possession gave the Heat a double-digit advantage.

The Celtics trimmed it to 125-118 with over a minute to go, but it was too little, too late. The deficit never fell below six for the remainder of the contest.

Sunday’s affair carried crucial playoff implications for both teams. The Heat entered one game ahead of Boston for the No. 7 seed, which is reserved for the play-in tournament. Miami also trailed the head-to-head tiebreaker after Boston won their first meeting of the season, so a loss would’ve dropped them to 7th.

Instead, Sunday’s victory ties the season-series at one apiece — the rubber match coming on Tuesday — and puts the Heat two games ahead of the Celtics. They improve to 37-31 and tie the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 seed.

Miami is 9-3 over its last 12 games. The Celtics drop to 35-33 and have now lost three of their last four contests.

Butler was at the forefront of Miami’s statement victory. He notched his 17th double-double of the season, tallying a team-high 26 points — 22 in the second half — on 9-of-14 shooting with a team-most 11 assists. The two-way guard added eight rebounds and two steals.

Collectively, the Heat shot 57.3 percent from the floor, 45.7 percent from 3-point range and 90.9 percent from the free-throw line.

They had six players eclipse double figure scoring — including the entire starting-five.

Duncan Robinson was second with 22 points on 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. Bam Adebayo added 20 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting, including 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. He added six rebounds with two steals.

Trevor Ariza had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro tallied 12 points apiece; Nunn went 5-for-11 from the floor and Herro went 5-for-9.

The Celtics shot 54.2 percent, including 36.8 percent from deep and 80 percent from the charity stripe.

Jayson Tatum posted 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 2-of-6 from deep. Kemba Walker had 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting with six assists.

Marcus Smart added 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Rookie guard Aaron Nesmith tallied a season-high 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-5 from deep off the bench.

Boston’s All-Star guard Jaylen Brown missed his third straight game with a right ankle sprain. Miami’s only inactive player was Victor Oladipo (knee), who didn’t travel with the team to Boston. He has missed the team’s last 16 games.

Nunn’s back to-back baskets gave Miami the early 9-4 advantage. Robinson’s fast break triple, followed by a pair of Adebayo free throws put Miami ahead 19-8 with 6:01 left in the first quarter.

Two straight 3s from Nunn and Dragic capped-off Miami’s 36-point first quarter — its 11th game with 35 or more first quarter points this season. The Heat, up 13, shot 56.5 percent and 46.2 percent in the first quarter.

The Celtics shot 42.1 percent, but missed seven of their first eight triples across the opening 12 minutes.

Herro’s off-the-bench presence lit a spark. He opened the second quarter with three quick baskets, including back-to-back 3-pointers to widen Miami’s advantage to 17.

Ariza’s and-1 conversion extended the lead to 20 — 62-42 — with 3:49 to go in the second quarter. Robinson’s third triple of the half put the Heat ahead 72-46.

Ariza’s 3-pointer gave Miami the 79-53 advantage entering halftime. He had a team-high 17 points entering the break. Four other Heat members (Robinson - 13 points; Nunn - 12; Herro - 12; Adebayo - 11) were in double figures. Smart and Tatum led Boston with 13 points apiece.

The Heat shot a blistering hot 65.1 percent — their highest field-goal percentage in any half this season — including 11-of-20 (55 percent) from beyond the arc. The Celtics shot 50 percent, but shot a dismal 4-of-18 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range.

Miami’s 79 points were the most it’s scored in a half this season and the most since it tallied 82 first-half points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 22, 2020. It was also the second-highest scoring first half in franchise history.

The Celtics went on a 15-4 run to begin the third quarter — 10 coming from Fournier — quickly cutting the deficit to 83-68.

The deficit got to as little as 12 before an Ariza layup, followed by Robinson’s fifth triple of the afternoon widened it to 92-75 with 4:26 left in the quarter.

Dragic’s lob feed to Dewayne Dedmon made it 107-84, opening the final 12 minutes. Boston went on another large run, cutting it to six with over four minutes remaining. It wasn’t enough with crucial clutch performances from Butler, Adebayo and Robinson.

Up next:

The Heat conclude their two-game series against the Celtics Tuesday. Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m. EST on TNT.