The Boston Celtics have the best offense in the league since the start of last month, so the Miami Heat wasn’t going to be able to shut them down for four full quarters in Miami. When the Celtics’ run finally came in the form of 16 unanswered points in the third quarter, Dwyane Wade was there to beat back Boston.
Wade stopped the run with one three-pointer, then drilled another less than three minutes later and hit a floater just before the end of the period. The Heat’s lead was once 26, then dwindled to eight before Wade pushed it back up to double digits, which is where it finished. Miami hung on for a 115-99 win at AmericanAirlines Arena thanks to a dazzling final five minutes by the future Hall of Famer.
Wade finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and 12 of those came in a 4:54 stretch between the four-minute mark of the third quarter and the 10-minute mark of the fourth, saving the Heat (20-20) from a near collapse.
“Sometimes this league is just about having great players in those important moments, swing moments over the course of a game. Obviously, they have a lot of them on their team. Dwyane, it wasn’t his stat line that really mattered, it was the timing of all these plays that he made that was so important for us.”
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Wade finally checked in for the second half with 5:17 remaining in the third quarter after the Celtics (25-16) cut Miami’s lead down to 72-57. Boston scored five more in a row before Wade took over. He knocked down a three from the top of the key, but the Celtics kept chipping away, getting the lead down to 78-70, when Wade knocked down another three from the left wing with a minute left. With 15.6 seconds left in the quarter, Wade dropped in a floater to keep the Heat ahead 83-72 entering the fourth quarter.
The 12-time All-Star wasn’t done. In the first 1:07 of the fourth quarter, Wade scored four more points. He scored nine in a row for Miami all in just 2:07 to get the Heat’s lead back to 87-74. The Celtics never again cut the lead to single digits.
“When I came in it was just about settling us in a little bit and then I got some shots to fall,” Wade said in the locker room after the win, “but just the calming factor. I’ve always talked about that’s what I’m here for.”
Wade’s eruption reignited a breakout offensive performance for the Heat. Thursday pitted two slow-playing teams with top-10 defenses against one another, but the first quarter was a shootout. Miami made 3 of its first 4 shots and 4 of its first 7. Boston opened 6 of 7 from the floor after making its first three shots. The Heat finished the first quarter with a 28-24 lead after shooting 48 percent from the field.
Miami eventually clamped down on the Celtics, ultimately holding them to 41.7-percent shooting in the first quarter and 38.8 percent in the first half. Boston, which had the NBA’s best offensive rating in its last 20 games, scored fewer than 100 for only the fourth time all season and the first time in almost two months.
A single run wasn’t enough for the Celtics to keep up. Excluding Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting, Boston shot only 37.1 percent from the floor. The Heat finished with a 47.9 field-goal percentage and 46.2 three-point percentage as guard Tyler Johnson, combo guard Josh Richardson, small forward Derrick Jones Jr., and forwards Justise Winslow and James Johnson all finished in double figures.