In the two teams’ second matchup with each other in a row, the Boston Celtics once again bested the Miami Heat, this time a 112-102 win in Miami. Gordon Hayward led the Cs with 25 points and shot 12-for-13 from the free throw line. The Cs are beginning to find their rhythm as they head towards the playoffs, as they have now won four of their last five contests.
Just as in Monday night’s game, Boston started the first couple of minutes red hot as they scored the game’s first nine points, starting with a 20-foot pull-up jumper from Kyrie Irving. The Heat didn’t score their first points of the game until Kelly Olynyk pulled up for a 3-pointer over two minutes into the game.
The Celtics remained hot for the rest of the first quarter, but the Heat found a spark too. Throughout the final eight minutes of the quarter, Miami caught up, taking the lead by the end of the quarter.
Down 29-31 at the beginning of the second quarter and motivated to get back on top, Boston’s Jayson Tatum made a 2-foot driving dunk to tie the game. Just three minutes later, Hayward began his standout night that ultimately helped the Cs pull off another big win this season.
Hayward passed the ball to center Al Horford, who connected on a 7-foot shot to take back the lead 35-34. Heading back into the offensive end after a Olynyk missed 3-pointer, Hayward was fouled by Heat center Hassan Whiteside and connected on both free throws.
Tatum then made two straight baskets for the Celtics, but the game remained close. By the time the ball worked its way back into Hayward’s hands, Miami’s Bam Adebayo had knotted the score again at 41. Hayward answered quickly, making a 24-foot 3-pointer, helping the Cs close out the half up 53-49.
The biggest lead throughout the third quarter was held by the Cs at seven points, after Irving made a 13-foot step-back jumper. G drained four of his five free throw attempts in the third period as he added to his total and kept Boston in front. The Cs held a narrow 83-81 lead at the conclusion of the third quarter.
Moving into the fourth quarter, Dragic made two free throws in the first 15 seconds, which tied up the game once again. Fortunately for Celtics fans, this would be the last time the Heat would be tied. Horford made a five-foot shot off of a Hayward assist. Shortly after, Horford returned the favor as he assisted Hayward for another two points on a subsequent possession.
Then, Tatum heated back up, scoring nine straight points for Boston off of a 3-pointer, two jumpers and two free throws, and his outburst was followed up by a Hayward three. With just under four minutes left to play, Hayward made an open three to add to Boston’s lead 103-96.
As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, Hayward put an exclamation point on a thrilling performance. He made a 13-foot shot, and then was fouled by Adebayo on the following possession. G made both free throws, forcing the Heat to play the foul game the rest of the way. With under 30 seconds left and down eight, the Heat needed to foul. Hayward was sent to the line for his 12th and 13th free throws of the game. Gordon made both, which closed out the game for Boston, giving them two straight victories over Miami.
If Monday night looked like a playoff-ready Celtics team, then last night’s Celtics team looked championship ready. Five players scored 10 points or more, with three players scoring 20 or more. Hayward led his squad with 25 points, eight rebounds and shot 12-for-13 from the foul line in his bench-leading 32 minutes. Irving scored 23 points, Horford scored 21 points, Tatum had 16 and Aron Baynes contributed 10 points.
“It’s huge everyone made big time plays for us, and we want to be playing the best we can be going into the playoffs,” Hayward said. “These are all games that feel like playoff games.”
Haywards 12 made free throws tied the total amount of free throws made by the entire Miami Heat team. When G was on the floor, the Cs were +16.
Boston will head to Indiana to take on the Pacers on Friday. The Pacers own the same record as the Cs (47-32) and will likely be the Celtics’ opponent in the first round. The winner of Friday’s game will take over the No. 4 seed in the East and will be in a great position to capture homecourt advantage in the first round.
The game is set for 8 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN.