Underdog Heat use strong second half to win Game 2, tie series . . .
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Underdog Heat use strong second half to win Game 2 , tie series with Celtics

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The Miami Heat won 111-101 on the road despite missing star Jimmy Butler. An understaffed Miami Heat side battled blows with the top seed Boston Celtics throughout the first half, and after 13 lead changes and six ties, the Heat took a commanding lead in the third quarter while limiting superstar Jayson Tatum’s shooting effect.

Miami was able to extract productivity from its depleted rotation by focusing on shots from beyond the arc rather than inside, with Olympian Bam Adebayo (21 points and 10 rebounds) and Tyler Herro (20 points, 14 assists, and 3 steals) leading the way. Caleb Martin scored 21 points, and the other starters all scored in double digits.

Boston was led mostly by Tatum (28 points and 8 assists) and Jaylen Brown (32 points and 7 rebounds), who drove their offense throughout both half despite the lack of a strong third scoring option in the disappointing loss.

Despite fouls and stoppages in the first quarter, the pace of the game remained enjoyable and clear of some of the replays and delays that marred previous games. The Heat took an early lead by hammering down threes in the stanza. Boston’s starters all contributed, and Tatum’s free throws helped his team come within 27-28 of Miami.

Despite Jaquez, Jr.’s strong performance, Boston’s bench assistance helped wrest the lead from the Heat early in the second quarter. In this quarter, the action became much more chaotic, with more bodies hitting the floor. Though the defenses were not nearly turnstiles, Boston and Miami’s shotmaking and ball sharing carried them well, but the Celtics led 61-58 at halftime thanks to Brown’s 11-point personal surge.

The Celtics’ offense sputtered slightly in the third quarter. Miami continued to spread the ball generously over the perimeter, looking for open lanes and shooting opportunities. The Heat’s Herro and Boston’s Brown lit up the scoreboard throughout the stanza. Miami’s unheralded contributions increased their lead to 12 before Tatum began hitting from the field. The Heat led by six at the end of the third period.

Observations

  • It’s impressive that Al Horford has survived as long as he has while still being counted on as a contributor, and, like Tim Duncan, he never appears to age visibly.
  • Bad optics: as Tatum’s team was down ten points in the third quarter, the court reporter exclaimed excitedly over his new shoe.
  • I still miss Derrick White’s ability to reach anyplace deep in the paint while wearing a Spurs uniform.
  • Adebayo’s post-isos are difficult to watch, but they are effective.
  • Bald White (13 points) and bald Porzingis (6 points) are a sight to behold. Unfortunately, they both gave subpar performances tonight. (As I typed this, White scored six consecutive points.)
  • From the start, Boston was satisfied to leave Nikola Jovic free, and he hit a pair of threes. Tatum missed several of his first tries, but his early 10 points put the Celtics up. The majority of the Heat’s scoring came from behind the arc, with Jaquez, Jr. and Herro hitting two consecutive threes to erase the lead. Tatum’s final 14 points of the period brought the Celtics to within one.
  • Baby-faced assassin To start the second session, Sam Hauser deflected Kevin Love’s pass and hit a corner three. Holiday’s transition three put the Celtics ahead five points again. Caleb Martin’s two wing threes from opposing wings pushed Miami back ahead. Jovic and Brown performed leaning layups. Brown’s three consecutive three-pointers, as well as a fast break lay-up, revitalized the Celtics, who led 61-58 at the half.
  • Jovic began the third quarter the same way he had opened the first: with a three-pointer. After the teams traded leads on a number of possessions, Boston saw a few of its shots bounce out or off different portions of the rim, and the Heat capitalized. Herro set up Adebayo twice for massive jams. Brown singlehandedly kept the Celtics in the game, scoring 18 of their 20 points in the second and third quarters. Martin slammed home two layups to put Miami up a dozen points. Tatum took over for Brown and helped Boston reduce the gap, but Miami led 85-79 entering the fourth quarter.
  • Miami’s first basket in the fourth quarter was, of course, a three from Delon Wright. White’s 6-0 solo run pulled Boston within five. Haywood Highsmith’s clutch three-pointers kept the Heat comfortably ahead. A final surge by Boston, led by Tatum, was met with a Martin three-pointer and a Herro layup. The Heat made just enough stops to earn the victory.
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