After starting this season-long six-game homestand with two pretty good wins, the Miami Heat is right back where it was a week ago: 10 games under .500 and still trying to figure out why playing at AmericanAirlines Arena seems to lull them to sleep for a quarter.
The Boston Celtics became the 10th team to beat the Heat on its home court in 14 games, jumping out to a 22-point lead in the second quarter before hanging on for 105-95 victory Sunday night.
Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 23 points and four assists before he was ejected for a flagrant foul with 3:02 to play after he elbowed Justise Winslow in the face and drew blood under Winslow’s right eye.
Avery Bradley added 20 points on a good shooting night (9 of 17) and Al Horford chipped in with 17 points, seven rebounds and a team-high eight assists.
The Heat shot a season-best 52.2 percent from the field, but matched a season-high with 23 turnovers and missed 11 free throws, offsetting very productive nights from Hassan Whiteside (23 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks) and Goran Dragic (31 points, five rebounds, seven assists).
“We’re not talented enough to win like that,” said Dragic, who said he’s grown tired of the Heat falling behind big at home in the first half. “We need to grind those games. We need to play our game defensively. And only like that can we win these kind of games.”
Said Winslow: “We’re digging ourselves too big a hole. Against good teams you might be able to fight back, but not enough at the end.”
Boston (15-12) shot 65 percent in the opening quarter and led 37-19 before eventually taking a 58-41 lead into the break after the Heat (9-19) turned it over 13 times in the first half. The early miscues led directly to 18 of the Celtics’ first half points. Boston scored 24 points in all off Heat turnovers.
“Every time we had an opportunity we coughed it up right as the momentum would shift,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat, the worst free-throw shooting team in the league, finished 14 of 25 from the line. Whiteside and Winslow each missed four free throws. James Johnson, Dragic and Winslow each had five turnovers.
“We’ve just got to make free throws,” Winslow said. “No one is guarding you. Me, myself, my teammates, we’ve just got to make free throws. Not anything super complicated about it — just make your free throws.”
Miami trimmed the Celtics’ lead to 77-71 by the end of the third quarter, but drew no closer than 97-93 after Tyler Johnson made the first of two free throws with 1:48 to play. The next time down the floor, Horford drove to the basket and hit a layup, drawing a foul on Johnson in the process.
That helped Thomas, who was sitting in the Celtics locker room, feel a little better about being ejected for his flagrant foul on Winslow.
“It was a regular basketball move that I do every game,” Thomas said of his elbow to Winslow’s face. “It just happened to connect. I don’t mess with no elbows. I’m far from a dirty player. It sucks the NBA makes those types of calls.”
Winslow said the cut under his right eye required “four to five” stitches.
“When I closed out I actually said, ‘Not letting you shoot or drive the ball;’ and he just swung through,” Winslow said. “It wasn’t excessive. He didn’t mean to hurt me. It was a basketball play — heat of the moment. I said things. They said things. But, no one is out there trying to hurt nobody. It’s just part of the game.”