BOSTON -- The Miami Heat have ended more than their share of home winning streaks this season, proving themselves to be one of the NBA’s best road teams.
Well, that killer road success did nothing for them against the Celtics on Wednesday night as the Celtics had them looking more like roadkill as they sped away in the second half for a 112-93 win.
Jaylen Brown delivered yet another gem of a performance, tallying a season-high 31 points. Leading scorer Kemba Walker (22 points, seven assists) and Jayson Tatum (19 points, five rebounds) also had strong games for Boston (15-5).
The Heat, having pulled out an overtime win at Toronto less than 24 hours earlier, had a strong start to the game but soon faded and, while chipping away at Boston’s lead, never really threatened Boston’s control of the action in the second half.
Miami’s best player, Jimmy Butler, did a little bit of everything for the Heat while scoring a game-high 37 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.
Still, the story of this game was the Celtics, playing without their defensive ace Marcus Smart, who was out due to an illness in addition to dealing with some still-lingering oblique soreness suffered in a win at New York on Sunday.
We have seen them do well when one of their core guys is out and Wednesday’s game was no exception.
While some will point towards the Heat being on the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat are one of the more resilient teams in the NBA and came out playing to do more than just compete.
As the game wore on, Boston’s defense steadily wore them down. And down went the talented Heat, one of the best teams in the NBA on the road who, on this night, weren’t road warriors but were more like roadkill.
Here are some other takeaways from the win:
It seems at least once or twice a week, Jaylen Brown delivers a performance that stands out for all the right reasons. Boston had a lot of bodies step up on Wednesday and contribute to the win, but Brown’s play was arguably the best.
It’s easy to get caught up in his season-high 31 points, but Brown did more than just get buckets. He moved without the ball, kept the ball moving when he had it in hand and did all he could defensively to at least contest many of those big shots that Butler was draining all night.
It was a strong all-around game for Brown, the kind that we’re getting accustomed to seeing from him on a night-in, night-out basis.
Don’t let the final numbers fool you. The Celtics absolutely dominated this category, fueled by an extremely lopsided first half in which Boston was 13-for-18 from the line compared to the Heat, who missed their only free-throw attempt in the first half. For the game, Boston was 26-for-32 from the line, Miami 11-for-17.
The Celtics played good defense for most of the game, but the turning point came in the second quarter. Boston closed out the second quarter with a 26-7 run fueled in large part by their defense, which limited the Heat to 7-for-21 shooting.
Boston’s defense has not been nearly as good the past week or so as it was earlier this season. Several factors have contributed to their struggles, but the bottom line is they have to play more consistently.
What we saw in the second quarter on Wednesday was exactly what the Celtics have to do defensively going forward.
They were as connected as we’ve seen them defensively this season, which will come in handy in a couple of days when they face a Denver Nuggets squad that has the depth that will challenge Boston at both ends of the floor.
We’ve seen Kemba Walker save his best play for the second half most of this season but Wednesday night against the Heat being the exception. Walker scored 17 of his 28 points in the first half, doing so on an efficient 5-for-10 shooting. On top of that, he had four assists in the first half with zero turnovers.
Walker’s playmaking more so than his playmaking was huge for the Celtics who were playing without Smart, their top playmaker this season.
The way he adapted his play to still be impactful but certainly help fill the void left by Smart’s absence was huge.
The second half brought about an entirely different, far more aggressive Butler. The Heat got down by as many as 16 in the third quarter before Butler put the Heat on his back and rallied them to get within single digits. He would finish with a game-high 37 points, six rebounds and four assists.
This was yet another night in which the Celtics had their struggles limiting a good scorer from having a great night. Still, to their credit, Boston didn’t allow Butler's supporting cast to get into any kind of major rhythm offensively, which softens the blow of again being lit up by an opponent.
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