By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Only three teams have handed the Miami Heat an L on their home floor this season. The Boston Celtics are one of them.
The Celtics had a real big boy win on Tuesday night, defeating a team that usually doesn’t lose at home. With a 109-101 victory in Miami, the Celtics have now joined the two Los Angeles teams in the illustrious group of squads to have beaten the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena this year. Miami “dropped” to 21-3 on their home floor with Tuesday night’s defeat.
The detractors will say that Miami was on the second leg of a back-to-back while the Celtics were coming off a night of rest (if there is such a thing when teams visit Miami). They may add that Miami was playing without Justise Winslow and Kendrick Nunn.
But make no mistake: Tuesday night’s victory was a statement win by the Celtics. Miami was playing their second game in as many nights, but both of those contests were at home. They haven’t had to leave Miami in nearly two weeks, so really, having to play two straight nights isn’t much of an excuse.
The bottom line for the Celtics is they needed a quality road victory and they got it. Tuesday night is their best win away from TD Garden of the season, improving Boston’s road record to 13-10. If there was any doubt after some recent losses to a few substandard opponents, the Celtics have reaffirmed themselves as a legit contender for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks.
Boston was without Jayson Tatum and his 21.5 points per game on Tuesday, as the forward missed his third straight game with a groin injury. Enes Kanter also sat out for a second straight game with a lingering hip injury. But there was no shortage of players who stepped up in their absence.
Gordon Hayward led the charge, aggressively scoring a game-high 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting while pulling down nine rebounds. He now has three straight games with 20 or more points, the first time he’s done so as a member of the Celtics. When it wasn’t Hayward, Jaylen Brown answered the call. After Miami had cut Boston’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter, Brown went off for seven straight points in just over a minute to lift the lead back to eight. Brown finished with 25 points to go with his five assists and three rebounds.
Kemba Walker did his thing with 16 points and eight assists, and though Marcus Smart started slow, he finished strong, as Marcus Smart tends to do in big games. The guard hit just three of his 13 attempts, but Smart canned a three with 1:50 left to give Boston a 104-96 lead, and then stripped Bam Adebayo as he went up for a layup with just over a minute left to help seal the win.
It was an impressive win to cap off a 2-1 road trip for Boston, a great bounce-back effort after losing to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Sunday night. The C’s are now 2-0 in their head-to-head series against Miami, which could come in handy if the Celtics need a tie-breaker over the Heat when the regular seasons comes to a close.
Five of Boston’s eight games ahead of the All-Star break will come at home, giving them a chance to improve on their 31-15 record — currently good for fourth in the East. They have an important matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston coming up Saturday night, a team they have come up empty against in their three clashes this season. While they can’t salvage their season series against Philadelphia, Saturday night’s game will be another opportunity for the Celtics to show the rest of the NBA that they truly belong in the conversation as a top team in the East.