Knowing they would not have Al Horford for Monday’s game, the Boston Celtics anticipated beating the Miami Heat not be easy.
“It makes it more challenging when you miss an All-Star like Al Horford, going against anybody,” Isaiah Thomas told reporters prior to the game. “Everybody knows he makes the game a lot easier for everyone else on this team. We’ve just gotta … try to sneak one out of here.”
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Horford was not with the team due to his wife giving birth to their second child.
In his absence, what Boston did was far from sneaking out a win as they took control in the second quarter – usually their worst quarter – that propelled them to a 112-104 victory for their fourth straight road win.
Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points and eight assists. Boston also got strong games from Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder who had 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Miami (5-12) was led by Hassan Whiteside’s 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Goran Dragic’s double-double of 27 points and 17 assists.
The Celtics (10-7) reached double-digit wins faster than any of Brad Stevens’ previous teams in Boston by winning for the fifth time in their last seven games.
After Miami tied the game at 21-all early in the second, the Celtics went on a blistering 27-10 run which put the Celtics ahead 48-31 at the half.
Miami fought back in the third behind some red-hot shooting to come within 83-73 going into the fourth quarter.
Naturally as the game’s ending drew nearer, things got a bit testy on the court with hard, physical plays being made by both teams.
And no surprise, Boston’s Marcus Smart was in the middle of hit.
With 3:17 to play and the Celtics ahead 100-88, Smart was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul when he prevented a Whiteside dunk.
To the Celtics credit, they managed to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the game despite Miami’s shooters catching a rhythm after some lethargic shooting throughout the first half.
Unable to cut Boston’s lead to single digits until the final minute of play, the Heat went to a Hack-a-Smart strategy with 2:40 to play.
Smart, a 55 percent free throw shooter, made the second of the two free throws.
After a Whiteside basket made it a 103-93 game, Miami went to the Hack-a-Smart strategy again.
Smart was fouled by Dragic, and Smart was soon whistled for a technical foul when he pushed Dragic.
Dragic made the technical foul and Smart once again split his two free throw attempts which made it a 104-94 game.
Apparently Smart wasn’t the only one losing his cool, as Erik Spoelstra was whistled for a technical foul with 2:11 to play.
Thomas, who struggled with his shot most of the game, made the technical free throw and then drove into the lane on the ensuing possession for a lay-up that made it a 107-94 game.
A Miami 3-pointer made it a 10-point game again, but the Celtics’ control of the game was never in doubt for the rest of the game.
Boston now must shift its focus to the Detroit Pistons who will be at the TD Garden on Wednesday night.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they will have Horford back in the lineup which is a good thing considering the Pistons are led by Andre Drummond who is one of the league’s best big men.