Celtics get revenge on Heat, 107-105

By Anthony Chiang
Miami Herald/TNS

After eliminating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals almost four months ago, the Miami Heat expected an inspired performance from the Celtics in their first matchup of the season.

The result was a close game with a dramatic finish.

In the end, the Celtics (6-3) survived to defeat the Heat 107-105 on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami fell to 3-4 this season.

The final three minutes were eventful, a stretch that began with the score tied at 95 with 3:19 to play.

Boston then used a 10-0 run to build a 10-point lead with 1:17 left on the clock.

The Heat somehow rallied, using a quick 10-0 run of their own - a Duncan Robinson three-pointer, a Robinson and-1 three-pointer and a Goran Dragic three-pointer - to tie the game at 105 with 13.4 seconds to play.

But Celtics guard Payton Pritchard made a game-winning put-back layup with 0.2 seconds left to send Boston to the win.

Next up for the Heat is the start of a four-game trip that begins Saturday against the Washington Wizards.

Here are five takeaways from the Heat’s loss to the Celtics:

Even in a loss, this was Jimmy Butler’s best game of the young season.

It has been a weird start to the season for Butler, who sprained his right ankle in the opener and then missed two of the Heat’s first four games because of the injury.

Butler returned in Friday’s loss to the Mavericks and struggled, finishing with two points on 0-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from the foul line in 27 minutes. It marked just the second game in Butler’s career that he has played more than 25 minutes and not made a shot from the field in.

Butler was better in Monday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, recording 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, three rebounds and six assists in 26 minutes to get on track.

Then on Wednesday, Butler simply looked like himself again. He finished with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 33 minutes.

It took until the seventh game of the season, but the Heat finally used the same starting lineup in consecutive games.

After starting six different lineups in the first six games of the season, coach Erik Spoelstra chose to give the Tyler Herro-Jimmy Butler-Duncan Robinson-Bam Adebayo-Kelly Olynyk combination another look to begin Wednesday’s matchup against the Celtics. This five-man group was effective in Monday’s blowout win over the Thunder, finishing with a plus/minus of plus-9 in 20 minutes together.

Things didn’t go as well for the Heat to begin Wednesday’s game. Boston opened a 21-10 lead before Miami made its first substitution of the game with 6:04 left in the first quarter.

But the the Heat’s starting lineup did look better to start the second half, outscoring the Celtics 19-10 to begin the third quarter before turning to its bench.

Herro, Butler, Robinson and Adebayo have been constants in the starting lineup when healthy to begin the season, but Olynyk is the fifth piece that Spoelstra has decided to stay with for now. Moe Harkless (6-7, 210) started the opener in that spot, Meyers Leonard (7-0, 260) started the second and third games, and Andre Iguodala (6-6, 215) started the fourth and fifth games before Olynyk got in the sixth and seventh games.

The Heat’s bench rotation on Wednesday included Goran Dragic, Precious Achiuwa, Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala. Those four have been the core of Miami’s bench rotation to begin the season.

Forward Moe Harkless, who played in each of the Heat’s first six games, was inactive Wednesday because of a left forearm contusion.

Celtics guards Kemba Walker (left knee injury recovery) and Jeff Teague (left ankle sprain) were unavailable.

Robinson became the fastest player in NBA history to reach 300 career made threes, and it’s not even close.

With his second made three of Wednesday’s game early in the third quarter, Robinson hit 300 career three-pointers in his 95th regular-season game. It’s the fastest any NBA player has reached that mark.

Before Robinson made his 300th three, Dallas Mavericks wing Luka Doncic and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard were the fastest to do it in their 117th game.

Robinson finished Wednesday’s loss with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting on threes and six rebounds.

All things considered, the Heat did relatively well in its attempt at defending the Celtics’ dynamic duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Brown (21 points on 8-of-23 shooting) and Tatum (27 points on 10-of-21 shooting) combined for 48 points on 40.9 percent shooting Wednesday.

The Heat had better luck defending Brown and Tatum than most teams early this season. Brown and Tatum entered with 425 combined points (53.1 points per game) in Boston’s first eight games, which is the second most by a Celtics duo in franchise history through the first eight games of the season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

For both teams, the game was secondary to what unfolded at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

Hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, crashing through police lines and some entering the building to delay the constitutional process of certifying the Electoral College count after the Nov. 3 presidential election. There were reports of an armed standoff with Capitol police in the House chamber.

“Really disturbing images,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Wednesday’s contest. “We’ve all been talking about it the last couple of hours. And it was really disturbing. We didn’t talk about it formally as a group, but everybody is talking about it. The TV is on in the training room, it’s on in all the coaches’ offices. We just can’t believe what we’re seeing. It has been just a tough string of events. And even with the Jacob Blake ruling, that was really disheartening. Our whole industry shut down as we all know, in Orlando, for three days, thinking that this would be an opportunity for some real change. And it’s really disheartening to see that verdict, just really disappointing.”

Both teams were a few minutes late to the court for pregame warmups as they discussed how they wanted to handle Wednesday’s game, but they ultimately decided to play.

Both the Heat and Celtics knelt during the national anthem, and the teams issued a joint statement minutes before tip-off.

The joint statement read: “2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed. We play tonight’s game with a heavy heart after yesterday’s decision in Kenosha, and knowing that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on. The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.

“We have decided to play tonight’s game to try to bring joy into people’s lives. But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America.”

Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the third quarter at American Airlines Arena on Jan. 4, 2021 in Miami, Fla.