The Boston Celtics have played a it-ain’t-over-until-it’s-over brand of basketball all season, so why would the final game of the season be any different.
After trailing by as many as 26 points to the Miami Heat, the Celtics rallied for what seemed an improbable comeback that ended with a 98-88 Celtics win.
Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 21 points and six assists along with four rebounds while his backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, had 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting in addition to some solid defense on Heat all-star Dwyane Wade (17 points). Joe Johnson (19 points), Hassan Whiteside (19 points, nine rebounds) and Goran Dragic (18 points) also had big games for Heat who will be the No. 3 seed by virtue of winning the tie-breaker with fellow Southeast Division teams Atlanta and Charlotte.
The Celtics, also tied with Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte with a 48-34 record, will be the fifth seed and begin the playoffs at Atlanta this weekend.
The comeback began with a strong surge in the third quarter that saw Miami’s defense punctured at every turn by Boston speeding up the game.
And many of the good looks Miami got in the first half were no longer available in the second half as Boston’s perimeter defenders picked up the pressure and the Celtics’ big men played, well big.
Making it all that more impressive was it came on a night when the Celtics were celebrating championship teams from 1966, 1976 and 1986 who all played with their own brand of fight and grit – the ingredients on display Wednesday night by this most recent incarnation of Celtics.
Even with the victory, Boston still wasn’t able to secure home court.
They will begin the postseason this weekend at Atlanta.
And in a really cruel act by the Basketball gods, the Heat wind up with the No. 3 seed in the East by virtue of winning the tie-breaker with its fellow Southeast division foes Atlanta and Charlotte.
Had the Hawks won their season finale against Washington, the Celtics would have wound up as the fourth seed and with that, had home court advantage after having swept the season series with the Heat.