Butler, Miami fend off Celtics – Lowell Sun
By Kyle Hightower
AP Sports Writer
BOSTON — Jimmy Butler scored 24 points, Kyle Lowry added 23 and the Miami Heat rallied in the fourth quarter to hold off the Boston Celtics 106-98 on Wednesday night to stay atop a tight race for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Bam Adebayo finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds to help Miami post its second straight win since a season-worst four-game losing streak.
Since briefly taking over the East’s top spot, Boston has lost two in a row for the first time since late January.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Jayson Tatum added 23 points and six assists.
The back-and-forth game had very much the intensity of a playoff matchup, featuring nine ties and 16 lead changes.
Miami led by just a point at the half, but opened an 11-point cushion at the start of the third quarter.
The Celtics answered, running off 16 straight points to nudge back in front and eventually carried a 83-79 lead into the fourth.
It grew to 90-85 with 7:40 remaining when Daniel Theis tipped in a lob from Derrick White through contact from Dewayne Dedmon, who fouled out on the play.
The Heat stayed composed and responded with 12-3 spurt to take a 98-93 lead on a short jumper by Butler.
Boston cut it 98-96 with less than three minutes left, but came up empty on three straight possessions.
Lowry broke the stalemate with a jumper. Brown then had his shot blocked on the the Celtics’ next trip, and Lowry fed Butler for a fastbreak dunk to make it 102-96 with 1:43 left to play.
Boston had its own transition chance trailing 102-98 before Tatum was called for an offensive foul. The Celtics challenged the call, but it stood after review.
After another miss by Boston that was called out of bounds on Boston, Marcus Smart threw his hands up in frustration at the call and was ejected.
Miami was then able to close out the game on the free throw line.
Heat: Caleb Martin sat out with a right calf bruise.
Celtics: Grant Williams took Robert Williams place in the starting lineup. … Tatum was whistled for a technical foul late in the second quarter after complaining about a foul on Butler.
Wednesday marked the first true glimpse at what the Celtics’ lineup and rotations will look like for the foreseeable future with center Robert Williams III sidelined following knee surgery.
Things started a little rocky for Boston with Miami jumping out to an early 8-3 lead, scoring some wide-open baskets as it took advantage of some early miscommunication by the Celtics on the defensive end.
Boston cleaned that up in the second quarter by limiting the Heat to one-shot possessions, forcing turnovers and converting them into points.
Miami took a 53-52 edge into halftime, with both teams virtually mirroring each other on the stat sheet.
The Heat shot 46% from the field with 14 assists, knocking down eight of 19 from the 3-pont line. The Celtics shot 45% from the floor with 14 assists, connecting on eight of 21 of their shots from beyond the arc.
Heat: Continue three-game road trip at Chicago on Saturday.
Celtics: Host Indiana on Friday.