Four takeaways as Celtics fall to Heat 98-95 after fourth quarter meltdown

Four takeaways as Celtics fall to Heat 98-95 after fourth quarter meltdown

Updated: 5 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes, 19 seconds ago

The shorthanded Celtics were minutes away from a tough win against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night before falling apart late in a 98-95 defeat.

It was the second straight loss for Boston who played without Marcus Smart (ankle), Jaylen Brown (groin), Al Horford (back) and Malcolm Brogdon in the matchup. Jimmy Butler was a late scratch as well for Miami due to a lower back injury but the Celtics still maintained control for much of the game due to Jayson Tatum (31 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists). Derrick White (23 points, 6 assists) also stood out as all five starters scored in double figures which put Boston in position to win as they opened up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, the team ran out of gas on the second half of the back-to-back with many of the usual reserves (Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams) being handed big minutes. Miami went on a 15-0 run midway through the fourth quarter as Boston went scoreless for over six straight minutes in the stretch. Bam Adebayo (team-high 30 points) led the charge and hit the eventual game-winner in the final possession to hold off a late rally for Boston.

The Celtics return to Boston to host the Knicks on Thursday night. Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s defeat:

Jayson Tatum shines before stumbling late: With the Celtics down three starters, the All-Star forward probably saw more double teams against Miami than at any point this season. The dynamic scorer made the best of his options though, helping Boston gain control at halftime by leading all player with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists in the opening 24 minutes. He also overcame some foul trouble midway through the third quarter to post a double-double while getting to the free throw line for the 19th time this season. Tatum may have one of the better supporting casts in the NBA this year but this was a night that showed he can still put a team on his back when he has some of his best weapons taken away from him. However, his luck ran out late as he piled up seven turnovers including several key ones down the stretch that helped Boston squander a 10-point lead.

Derrick White gives Boston a second option: With three of Boston’s top four scorers out of the lineup, Boston needed some aggression out of their backcourt and they got just that with White. The point guard delivered one of his best performances of the year despite being limited to just 12 first half minutes with foul trouble. White punished Miami’s zone all night with his aggression going to the rim as well as knocking some down some key 3s when left alone.

Celtics offense comes unglued late: Boston was able to overcome some tired legs for the better part of three quarters but the Celtics went 6:21 without scoring midway through the fourth quarter, allowing the Heat to go on a 15-0 run and erase a 10-point Celtics lead. Payton Pritchard and Derrick White looked completely gassed as they tried to create for a stagnant Celtics offense on the second half of the back-to-back, managing just 13 points in the final frame including nine consecutive misses in one stretch.

Back-to-back winning streak comes to an end: The Celtics entered Tuesday’s game 7-0 in back-to-back games this year and looked primed for their eighth straight victory after a strong opening 40 minutes. Ultimately, the shorthanded visitors ran out of gas late against a rested Heat squad. Joe Mazzulla rode Pritchard, Tatum and Grant Williams for big minutes and there wasn’t much left in the tank against a stout Miami defense late.