The Boston Celtics needed this one.
Sure, beating the Miami Heat 109-101 improves Boston to 31-15.
Yes, it gives them a 2-0 lead in the head-to-head series, which could come into play if the two finish with identical regular-season records.
Still, the win Tuesday night did more than anything, was show that the Celtics could beat a quality team on the road.
Boston came in having lost six of their eight road games this season against teams with a .500 or better record.
And they did it against Miami (32-15), the best home team record-wise this season.
Making the victory more impressive was that they did so without Jayson Tatum (groin) and Enes Kanter (hip) sat out with injuries.
Gordon Hayward led the way with a game-high 29 points, with Jaylen Brown (25) and Kemba Walker (16) chipping in.
Speaking of Gordon Hayward…
Hayward was as aggressive as we’ve seen him on Tuesday, attacking the rim over and over and over again as he finished with a near double-double (29 points, nine rebounds) - his third game in a row with 20 or more points, the first time he's done that with the Celtics.
A key part of Hayward’s big night was he and the Celtics recognizing the mismatch Hayward had on offense when against Miami’s Duncan Robinson.
Off the dribble.
Pull-up jumper off the drive.
Hayward got anything and everything he wanted offensively as he built confidence as the game went on and in doing so, helped build a lead down the stretch that Boston refused to relinquish.
There was a stretch in the second quarter in which Brown scored seven consecutive points as part of his 25-point night.
With Tatum and Kanter out, Brown’s ability to score in bunches was wanted and needed desperately by the Celtics.
It was the kind of performance we have seen from time to time from Brown when the Celtics were without one of their other key players, reminding us all why he's often talked about as a potential first-time All-Star when the reserves are announced on Thursday.
CELTICS ZONE OFFENSE
The Miami Heat utilized an effective zone defense in the second quarter that limited Boston to just 17 points.
Halftime afforded the Celtics a chance to regroup and refocus on what they had to do to be more effective against the zone.
“We had to change our attack at halftime,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Overall, Boston did a better job of attacking the Miami defense before the Heat could set up, which resulted in easy baskets on more than one occasion.
And against Miami’s zone, Boston also improved its off-the-dribble attack by either kicking the ball out for a wide-open shot or finishing at the rim if the defense didn’t collapse on the ball-handler in the paint.
Williams wasn’t on the floor in the final minutes, but there was no getting around the impact he made Tuesday.
Williams kept balls alive with his activity on the offensive glass, rebounding at both ends of the floor, making deflections … he provided the Celtics with the kind of energy that they absolutely needed.
His final stats for the game were five points to go with seven rebounds (three offensive) in 23 minutes.
Without Kanter or Robert Williams III (hip), the Celtics didn’t have many options to turn to at center.
But on this night, Theis was more than enough as he tallied his third double-double of the season by finishing with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting to go with a game-high 11 rebounds, along with a pair of blocked shots. All in just 30 minutes.
The energy and multiple-effort plays that he made time and time again were a major plus for the Celtics to close out there three-game trip with a win.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Warriors-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.