The Celtics rolled into Kaseya Center and pulled away from the Heat after tensions flared on Super Bowl Sunday. And of course, the setting was filled with a Playoff atmosphere on prime time TV between two rivals who have faced off in three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals.
(Jimmy Butler didn’t play because of the leave of absence following the death of a family member.)
Kristaps Porziņģis exterminated the Heat’s switches and late contests, scoring 11 in the opening frame. Jayson Tatum and Derrick White got into the lane, scoring multiple times. And Jaylen Brown schooled Jaime Jaquez Jr, losing him with his dribble for a fadeaway, pump-faking him out of the picture for a triple, then logging a putback between two defenders.
For the Heat, Caleb Martin and Jaquez were the only working options. Tyler Herro and Terry Rozier were misfiring, connecting on just one of seven looks. And Bam Adebayo went stretches without demanding the ball.
Through 12 minutes, the Celtics led 26-22.
In the second quarter, Tatum sliced the Heat’s zone through the center for a layup, recorded two pull-up left-wing trifectas and made a jumper over Herro on the baseline. Jrue Holiday contributed two trays. And the rest of Gang Green recorded 45% of attempts.
The Heatles were rolling to start the interval, making three of four baskets, but Josh Richardson hurt his right shoulder trying to strip Tatum in transition. He was done for the day.
Then Martin failed three shots and Adebayo went cold, recording one of five buckets, but he made five freebies. Rozier countered the Celtics, eluding a mismatch (Al Horford) for a midrange shot, and successfully dribbling into the paint, plus scoring on four occasions.
At halftime, the Heat was behind 50-59 and tied on the glass at 25. The hosts also had 22 paint points, two on the break, eight via second chances and three after turnovers. Rozier had 11 points on five 12 attempts. Adebayo scored 11 on 33% of looks. And the rest of the club produced 11 of 31 buckets.
The Celtics recorded 24 in the square, none on the break, seven on extra tries and five after turnovers. Porziņģis dropped 16 points on six of nine makes with eight boards and three dimes. Brown had a dozen on half of his ventures. And Tatum added 14 to the scoring ledger on 60% shooting.
Tatum followed up, splashing two fadeaways, driving left past Martin from the top to the rim for a left-handed layup and bumping Rozier, hitting a floater on the baseline. Holiday swished three left-corner trays. And the rest of the Celtics recorded 43% of attempts.
Herro discharged 10 points -catching and firing on the left wing, pulling up for a head-of-the-key triple, finishing up close against drop coverage and beating Sam Hauser from the top to the cup for a layup. And Adebayo shot over the 2-3 zone in the middle and scored a putback.
Yet, seven minutes into the sequence, Rozier dusted Horford outside, busted into the paint, but was fouled by Tatum, the help defender, and came down awkwardly on his right leg. He was then helped to the locker room and didn’t return. The team’s X (formerly Twitter) account said it was his knee, but coach Erik Spoelstra said during a stoppage in play before the fourth that it was his ankle. The Heat has not cleared this up.
The Heat began the fourth quarter down 79-86. Four minutes in, Brown and Robinson got tangled up, battling for position. While Robinson’s arm was behind Brown, he was forcefully yanked forward. The reckless act for a simple foul could have popped Robinson’s shoulder out of place, ending his season like Kevin Love’s courtesy of Kelly Olynyk in 2015. Perhaps frontier justice would have been discharged if Udonis Haslem was still captain.
The refs checked it out, penalizing Brown with a flagrant one, but it should have got him tossed. Robinson was still upset and exchanged unpleasantries with Brown. From that moment forward, the intensity of the game increased 100 degrees.
Subsequently, Adebayo powered through the baseline for a layup and hit a nine-foot jump shot over Porziņģis. Herro drove left for a deuce, made a 3-pointer in front of Horford in drop coverage and another on the right wing, facing Brown.
But the Celtics got responses from Porziņģis, Tatum and Brown.
With a minute left and the Heat down two points, Haywood Highsmith missed a triple, and Martin foolishly fouled Porziņģis instantly, sending him to the charity line for a pair. Adebayo then missed the next shot at the nail, and the club was now 99% buried. With 15 seconds left and down six points, the Heat inbounded to Herro, and instead of popping a triple to keep the team on life support, went inside for a layup.
The Heat lost 106-110. It racked up 50 paint points, eight on the break, 23 via second chances and 15 after turnovers. Herro had 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. Adebayo logged 22 points with 13 rebounds. The bench had 26 points.
The Celtics had 38 paint points, zero on the break, 19 on extra tries and 10 after turnovers. Tatum had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Porziņģis had 25 on the scoring ledger with nine boards. Brown registered 20 points and nine rebounds. And the bench produced 18 points.
At the postgame presser, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said it was great that his group got into a confrontation. “We don’t go looking for stuff. But you have to man up… I told our guys at halftime, ‘Expect it to be hard.’”
On the Heat side, coach Erik Spoelstra said Richardson and Terry will get MRIs on Monday.
In the locker room, when speaking about the altercation with Brown, Robinson said, “I thought it was a dirty play. That’s how people miss whole seasons.”
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