Apparently the gulf between the Heat and Celtics isn’t nearly as wide as the standings would suggest.
After Jaylen Brown forced overtime with a miraculous 30-foot bank shot in the final seconds of regulation, the Heat regained the edge that fueled its second-half comeback and beat the Celtics 120-116 in overtime in a delightfully entertaining game on Friday to split their two games in Boston this week.
“It was a great win,” Kyle Lowry said. “A feel good win.”
This much appears clear: The margin between the teams isn’t as big as the seven games that separate the Celtics (18-5) and Heat (11-12) in the standings.
After competing toe to toe with Boston for 3 ½ quarters without Jimmy Butler on Wednesday, the Heat -- with Butler -- rallied from 13 down to win for the second time on this three-game road trip.
Down 83-70 in the third, the Heat unleashed a 26-8 run to surge ahead 96-91 with 7:16 left.
Jayson Tatum missed a difficult driving shot and Butler hit an 11-foot jumper to put Miami ahead 108-105 in the final minute of regulation. A Tatum dunk trimmed the Heat’s lead to 108-107 with 29 seconds to go.
But then Butler made it a three-point game with a 20-footer with 5.1 seconds left. And then Brown ruined everything (at least momentarily) with his miraculous three pointer, forcing overtime.
“It felt like we had to beat this team twice,” Erik Spoelstra said. “That last play, end of regulation, we defended it pretty well. We talked about fouling and [Butler] went for the steal and thought he made the appropriate decision not to foul when he overextended.
“Jaylen veered to halfcourt and veered to the sideline. I was thankful Jimmy didn’t try to foul. We gathered ourselves and collected our spirit” in overtime.
After Butler put the Heat ahead with a 12-foot jumper with less than two minutes remaining overtime, Brown missed a jumper, and the Heat turned it over, before two Brown free throws tied it.
But Bam Adebayo - who scored 23 points after intermission - then put the Heat ahead with two free throws with 40 seconds to go. Tatum then missed a three with 32 seconds to go, and Butler then hit a 17-footer to seal it with nine seconds remaining.
Butler (25 points, 15 rebounds) was outstanding after missing seven games with a sore knee.
Adebayo (28 points), Tyler Herro (26) and Lowry (20) provided a huge lift offensively in the second half, and Spoelstra stuck with Haywood Highsmith in overtime because of his defense.
Two nights after the Heat allowed 134 points in a 13-point loss to the Celtics, Miami played much better defensively, forcing 20 Celtics turnovers that led to 21 Heat points.
Two nights after scoring 49 points, Tatum scored just 14, making 5 of 18 shots and missing all seven of his three-pointers.
Brown scored 37, but that wasn’t enough to overcome balanced Heat scoring, with four Heat players topping the 20 point mark.
Lowry scored 15 after halftime before fouling out with 1:02 left in overtime and the Heat ahead by two.
The Celtics, the league’s best three-point shooting team, opened 2 for 12 on threes on Wednesday before making their next seven to go to the half with a 62-59 lead.
But Boston closed at 33.3 percent on threes (15 for 45), below its 40 percent mark for the season.
Two nights after Adebayo complained about the disparity in free throws in Wednesday’s game (23 attempts for Boston, nine for Miami), the Celtics again got to the line more – 28 times, compared with 18 for the Heat.
The Heat now moves on to Memphis for a Monday game before returning home Tuesday to play Detroit.
Five takeaways from the Heat’s win:
▪ Butler showed no rust after sitting out seven games with a sore knee.
After missing a three on his first shot, Butler hit 7 of his next 9 attempts, including three put-backs, three driving layups and a jumper.
He missed his first three shots of the second half before scoring his only points of the third quarter on a steal and dunk.
He went to the fourth quarter with 17 points on 8 for 14 shooting.
And he made big baskets late, including two huge jumpers in the final two minutes of overtime.
“My team welcomes me back and lets me do what I do,” Butler said. “It was a big W.”
Butler’s 15 rebounds were key on a night that the Heat outrebounded Boston 50-48.
“He’s such a winning player,” Spoelstra said. “Through the first three quarters, I didn’t run one play for him. He finds a way to compete and help your team win. He’s around the ball all the time, whether it’s an offensive rebound or cut or random pull up jump shot somewhere else.”
▪ The Heat did a better job on Tatum, but he also missed some shots that he made Wednesday.
Tatum left with two fouls less than five minutes into the game, then struggled when he returned to start the second quarter, missing a three over Highsmith, traveling with Herro on him and then tossing up an airball over Herro on a corner three. Then he missed a hook shot over Dewayne Dedmon.
Tatum was limited to 14 first half minutes because of foul trouble and went to the break with five points on 1 for 4 shooting, and 0 for 2 on threes.
He shot only 1 for 5 in a two-point third quarter, picking up his third foul along the way.
He missed a driving layup early in the fourth quarter, making him 2 for 10 at that juncture.
Highsmith and others did a good job defending him in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“We did a lot more switching tonight and a lot less zone than we usually have the last three weeks,” Lowry said.
Tatum committed five turnovers and closed 0 for 7 on threes, missing 13 of 18 shots overall.
“Sometimes players just miss shots,” Herro said. “I thought we were aggressive [and made him] feel us a little more than last game. We wanted to get in his airspace a little bit and make him take tougher shots.”
▪ Foul trouble bedeviled the Heat’s centers in the first half, but Adebayo played very well after halftime and Udonis Haslem had some vintage moments.
Adebayo picked up his second and third fouls within a 32 second span early in the second quarter and sat out the final 10:38 of the half.
Then Dedmon picked up two fouls and went to the bench with his third with 5:52 left in the first half.
Spoelstra then opted for Haslem over rookie Nikola Jovic for the second game in a row, and Hasem deterred a missed shot by Brown, then drew an offensive foul from Tatum with 2:23 left in the first half, sending Tatum to the bench with his third foul.
Haslem finished with a rebound and three fouls in his four minutes, all in the first half.
Adebayo was brilliant in the second half and reached the 28-point mark for the third time in four games.
▪ Aside from turnovers (five for Herro, four for Lowry), this was a very efficient night for the Heat’s backcourt.
Herro shot 10 for 19, including 6 for 10 on threes.
Spoelstra lost a coach’s challenge for the first time this season, when his bid to overturn an offensive foul by Herro was rejected on replay.
Lowry shot 8 for 13 on his 20-point, four-assist night. The Heat got out of sorts offensively for a time when Lowry picked up three quick fouls in the first 4:34 of the third and went to the bench with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
He helped steady Miami when he returned late in the third, and he helped fuel that Heat surge from 13 down.
“Our big four was tremendous tonight at different stages of the game,” Spoelstra said.
“We were able to put their imprint on the game offensively. They were not in each other’s way.”
▪ Spoelstra opted to use Highsmith over Duncan Robinson as his ninth man.
This was the first DNP-CD (did not play/coach’s decision) for Robinson this season and reflected Spoelstra prioritizing Highsmith’s defense over Robinson’s offense against the league’s best offensive team.
The Celtics entered averaging nearly 122 points per game, and Highsmith agains offered resistance, defending Tatum and others with energy and sound technique in his 28 minutes on the court.
Two nights after hitting four threes and matching his career high with 16 points, Highsmith made only one of five shots, but that was largely irrelevant because of his defense.
“H had some great moments defensively, put his nose in there and competed,” Spoelstra said. “He had the highest plus minus on the team” at plus 12.