Heat check: Young core leads the way vs. Celtics
The Miami Heat shook off a poor start to the second half with a strong showing in the final quarter to defeat the Boston Celtics 83-75 on Sunday afternoon.
Miami, without starters Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng to begin a four-game trip, never trailed a Celtics team that hardly resembles the same squad that faced off against the Heat in many memorable playoff battles.
The Heat took their largest lead of the day at 44-29 late in the second quarter, but Boston responded by hitting its first seven shots of the third to quickly get back into the game after shooting just 32 percent in the first half.
Though Hassan Whiteside's impact in the first half was limited because of two early fouls, he scored a team-leading 20 points with nine rebounds. He showcased more range in his shot from beyond the paint this time around and his six points and three blocks in the third quarter helped halt Boston's momentum. Whiteside reached the 20-point mark for the second time as a Heat player, and his defense in the paint was again a big factor.
Without two of their starters, the Heat needed a complete team effort to pull out the win. For a second straight game, the Heat enjoyed quality production from their young core of Whiteside, James Ennis, Shabazz Napier and Tyler Johnson. All-Star forward Chris Bosh struggled again with his shot but finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
With the win, Miami improved its road record to 13-11 and 21-26 overall.
The Turning Point
After the Celtics were able to tie the score near the end of the third quarter, an 8-0 run by the Heat to start the fourth got them back on track and re-built the lead that they would keep for the rest of the game.
The Difference Maker
Johnson's second and final 10-day contract ends once the Heat's current road trip wraps up, and he made a strong case for keeping the final roster spot with his performance against the Celtics. The rookie sharpshooter showcased his versatility with 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in 27 minutes off the bench. Above all else, he was essential to his team's success with his relentless hustle and energy.
Stat of the Game
The Heat improved their record to 20-2 when leading after the third quarter.
Miami continues its trip by visiting the Detroit Pistons for the first time this season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.