Takeaways from the Celtics’ 134-121 win against the Heat in a delightfully entertaining game on Wednesday night at TD Garden:
▪ The Heat played about as well offensively as anybody could imagine without Jimmy Butler, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome the brilliance of Jayson Tatum and the league’s best team.
At one point in the first half, the Heat was shooting 21 for 31 from the field. And that was before Max Strus erupted for five threes and 19 points in a dynamic third quarter.
Even on a night the Heat shot 52.2 percent from the field and 45 percent on threes (18 for 40), even on a night Haywood Highsmith hit four threes, there wasn’t quite enough to overcome a team averaging a league-high 121 points and shooting a league best 40.3 percent on threes.
Tatum, who entered averaging 30.8 points on 48.1 percent shooting, was virtually unstoppable, scoring 16 in the first quarter, 28 in the first half, 41 through three quarters and 49 for the game.
“He’s been developing his game every single year,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Great players evolve and that’s what he’s doing. What he’s forcing us to do is raise our level. He was in such a groove, knocked down open threes and had some tough ones.”
Jaylen Brown added 15 in the first half before leaving with his fourth foul less than a minute into the third quarter, then came back to score 11 in the fourth. And Malcolm Brogdon (21) and Derrick White (15) made big baskets.
Tatum closed 15 for 25 from the field, including 8 for 12 on threes, and 11 for 12 from the line, while also adding 11 rebounds and three assists. A lot of those attempts came against a Heat zone defense.
The Celtics shot 55.4 percent from the field and 49 percent (22 for 45) on threes, while making 20 of 23 free throws.
James Harden holds the all-time opponent single game scoring record against Miami with 58; Tatum fell nine points short of that.
The Heat, for nearly all of the evening, kept pace offensively. Strus (23 points) kept answering Boston baskets in the third quarter. Highsmith, who entered 5 for 24 on threes, hit four of them on a 16-point night.
Seven Heat players scored in double figures, including 23 from Bam Adebayo, who was ejected after being called for two consecutive technical fouls for complaining with 24 seconds left and the Celtics well in control.
“He had every right to be frustrated in terms of how he was attacking and not getting some of those hand checking calls,” Spoelstra said. “It’s tough to not foul him when he goes aggressive and strong. That last play he had his jersey yanked out and it wasn’t a call and he had [enough after] six or seven of those plays. I felt his frustration as well.”
And Tyler Herro - who had shot 13 for 46 from the field in his first three games back after missing eight with an ankle injury - shot 9 for 17 and scored 22, with six rebounds and nine assists.
▪ Like the Eastern Conference Finals six months ago, this was a game of wild runs (especially in the first half), swings of emotion and no time for anyone to exhale.
The Celtics (18-4) opened the game on a 17-4 spurt, making their first seven shots and five threes (including three threes by Tatum).
Then the Heat caught fire, unleashing a 43-27 stampede to surge ahead 47-44. At one point, Miami was shooting 7 for 14 on threes.
The Celtics then ran off a 12-0 spurt and led 68-60 at the half.
That, naturally, was followed by a Herro and Caleb Martin-led 10-2 run before two Tatum three pushed Boston’s lead back to eight.
And even with Strus scoring 19 in the third, the Celtics still went to the fourth ahead 102-96.
Miami pulled as close as 102-100 and then to within 118-115 on a Highsmith basket before threes by Al Horford and two threes from Tatum essentially settled matters.
The Heat fell to 10-12 on a night Prince William was among those in attendance.
▪ Adebayo continued his offensive breakout in the first half and fourth quarter, then was candid about his irritation with the referees afterward.
Coming off the first consecutive 30 point games of his career, Adebayo scored 15 in the first half, went scoreless in the third, but hit three baskets in the fourth to finish with 23 points, six boards and five assists.
Adebayo’s points against the Wizards last Friday (38) and Hawks on Sunday (32) came entirely in the paint (28 field goals between the two games) and the free throw line.
But he extended his range on Wednesday, hitting a long jumper and a three-pointer in opening 6 for 7 from the field.
But he emerged frustrated by the lack of foul calls in the Heat’s favor. Miami attempted nine free throws (making all of them), while Boston shot 23, making 20.
“It’s hard to get a team out of flow when we shoot only 9 free throws and they shoot 23,” Adebayo said. “I feel like that’s the deciding factor right there. If we shoot 18 total free throws, we win the ball game. Our team is shooting a total of nine free throws and we’re one of the teams that live in the paint, and you’re telling me we only shoot nine? Come on, man.”
And this also bothered Adebayo about his late-game interaction with referees Tony Brothers and Nick Buchert, who each called technical fouls on him, resulting in his automatic ejection.
“Me personally, I don’t get bent out of shape about calls,” Adebayo said. “My biggest thing is my mom taught me ever since I was younger, if somebody talks to you you look them dead in the eyes.
“That’s unprofessional when players try to come talk to you and you don’t acknowledge them. That has to be addressed. They should be put on the podium and have to explain certain situations. I asked about getting fouled. They told me no. I go watch film and the dude is pushing me. It’s like ‘C’mon bro, you’re all out here to make the game fair.’”
Adebayo’s three was his first make of the year after eight misses. For his career, he’s now 8 for 59 on threes.
But he worked on his three-point shot all summer, and it’s a shot he’ll likely continue to take very selectively after launching only six (and missing all of them) last season.
Adebayo, frustrated late, was ejected on a night he was called for three offensive fouls but got only two free throws.
▪ Udonis Haslem, 42, got an early call for the third time this season.
With Dwayne Dedmon and Omer Yurtseven sidelined by injuries, Spoelstra opted for Udonis Haslem as his backup center instead of Nikola Jovic, who was available but also dealing with foot and groin injuries.
Haslem, playing in his 20th and final NBA season, entered having played 10 minutes this season and 96 over the past three.
He missed his only two shots, including a three, in nine minutes but had a rebound and drew a charge.
“We needed a little more experience in this game,” Spoelstra said.
Jovic needs a lot of work defensively. Among all NBA power forwards who have been defended at least 50 shots, none has permitted a higher shooting percentage than Jovic; opponents are shooting 61.8 percent (47 for 76) when he defends them.
Dedmon visited with a foot specialist this week, and there was no indication of anything that would sideline him longterm.
But he missed Wednesday’s game because “his foot is sore,” according to Spoelstra.
▪ Help is on the way.
Butler, who missed his seventh game in a row with a sore knee, is planning to fly to Boston to join the team on Thursday, barring a setback before he departs.
Butler leads the Heat in scoring at 20.9 per game, to go along with 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He’s also an exceptional defender, and that would have helped on Wednesday.
And Victor Oladipo, sidelined all season by tendinosis in his non-surgically repaired knee, had a vigorous workout before the game and participated in a full non-contact Heat practice on Tuesday.
Spoelstra said Oladipo won’t play Friday at Boston or Monday at Memphis, but that he is making progress toward a return.
The defense of Butler and Oladipo could have helped on a night that was little defensive deterrence against a Celtics team that has steamrolled through the league.