The shorthanded Boston Celtics couldn’t close out the Miami Heat as they wrapped up their road trip with a deflating loss.
Jaylen Brown (right adductor injury management), Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain), Malcolm Brogdon (personal reasons), and Al Horford (low back stiffness) were unavailable for Tuesday’s matchup at Miami-Dade Arena. Miami also was shorthanded with Jimmy Butler (lower back tightness) out.
The C’s led by as many as 14 despite the absences of those key players. That was before Miami went on a 15-0 fourth-quarter run and kept Boston out of the scoring column for six-plus minutes. The result: a 98-95 Heat victory.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum had a game-high 31 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in the defeat. Derrick White stepped up as the secondary scorer Boston needed with Brown out as he tallied 23 points.
Bam Adebayo took over in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points and 15 boards. Haywood Highsmith also did his part in Butler’s absence with 15 points off the bench.
The Celtics will return home to take on the New York Knicks on Thursday night. Here are our takeaways from the C’s second straight loss, which brings them to 35-14 on the season.
No flow in the fourth
The Celtics were on the cusp of an impressive shorthanded triumph, then Miami threw a zone defense at them in the fourth quarter. That proved to be too much for Boston to handle.
From that point, the Heat went on a 15-0 run and kept the C’s scoreless for more than six minutes. Boston finished with only 13 points in the quarter.
Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla hasn’t been a fan of timeouts, but this was an example of a time in which he probably should have called one. With 20 seconds left in the game and the C’s down two, Mazzulla elected to play it out. It didn’t work in the C’s favor as Tatum walked the ball up the court and turned the ball over to effectively put the nail in the coffin.
The entire quarter was a nightmare on both ends of the floor for Boston. There was no figuring out of Miami’s zone, and there was no stopping Heat big man Bam Adebayo. Those factors — and the one below — were the difference between a hard-fought win and a devastating loss.
Turnovers becoming a troubling trend
The game ended on a Jayson Tatum turnover, and it was a fitting ending for a Celtics team that has struggled with taking care of the basketball lately. After turning it over 18 times in Monday’s loss to the Orlando Magic, they had 17 turnovers in the loss to Miami.
Tatum did his usual damage in the scoring column — especially in the first half when he dropped 21 points — but his turnovers proved costly. He had a game-high seven on the night with his last one being the biggest blunder.
The Celtics also had 15 turnovers in Toronto and 17 against Golden State. They escaped both games with victories, but the higher turnover totals are something to monitor going forward. They’ll look to remedy the issue when they return home on Thursday.
To add insult to injury, the Heat social team trolled the C’s for their turnover woes after the game, referencing the infamous Dallas Cowboys tweet after their Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Derrick White steps up as secondary option
With four key Celtics players out including Jaylen Brown, Tatum needed a wingman. Derrick White rose to the occasion.
White dropped 23 points for his highest scoring total since Nov. 18 vs. the Charlotte Hornets, when he was 26. He also made an impact as a distributor with six assists to make up for Smart’s continued absence. He did so despite early foul trouble, which limited him to only 12 first-half minutes.
Unfortunately, White ran out of gas in the fourth quarter along with the rest of the C’s lineup on the second night of a back-to-back. While the ending wasn’t ideal, it was still a strong showing for a player who has stepped up time and time again for Boston when called upon to take on an increased role.