Boston - With a tough five-games in seven-days schedule this week for the Celtics, Wednesday was an opportunity not only to remain in the playoff picture as the eighth seed, but even jump to seventh, ahead of their opponent for the night; the Miami Heat. No Dwayne Wade or Hassan Whiteside proved too good to be true for the C's, who struggled through three quarters to keep up with the visitors from South Beach and ended in their second straight loss at the TD Garden, with a final score of 93-86.
Goran Dragic had his way with the Celtics, scoring a game-high 22-points and dishing out 7 assists. Luol Deng added 15 points, while old man Udonis Haslem finished with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Meanwhile Boston had to play catch up pretty much from the opening-tip, and Brad Stevens' second unit made it a near comeback late in the fourth quarter despite all the technicals (5 total) being called on both teams. Jae Crowder led the way with 16 points along with 7 rebounds off the bench, while Avery Bradley added 12 points (all in the first half). Phil Pressey made use of his 18 minutes since Isaiah Thomas' return to the lineup didn't go according to plan (4 points in 20 minutes). The second year point guard contributed with 11 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in limited action. Tyler Zeller also chipped in with 10 points, 8 rebounds in the loss.
Despite the Celtics holding the Heat to just 11 fourth quarter points, it was the giant hole from the start that made it frustrating for the home crowd to watch. After Miami led by as many as 17 by halftime (57-40), Stevens had no choice but to set the example and let his backups try to mount a rally in the third quarter and into the final frame.
"In the fourth quarter they played with great emotion and hard as heck and got us back into it, but then we just didn't make very good decisions or play with poise late, which sometimes happens when you're trying to mount a furious comeback," Brad Stevens said.
Boston got within six (89-83) with 2:30 left in the game, before they rushed a series of missed 3-pointers that pretty much cost them the win and the chance to move up in the Eastern Conference standings. With less than 40 seconds to go, Stevens inserted some of his starters, who hadn't played barely any minutes in the entire second half as if to to give the unit that played harder their recognition for the night. Either way this was a tough pill to swallow in a winnable ball-game.
"We came out real flat and they [the Heat] took advantage of that," C's rookie Marcus Smart said.
The Celtics (31-40) have 11-games left in the season and still remain a half-a-game ahead of Charlotte and Brooklyn as the eighth seed while three teams (Pacers, Hornets and Nets) each have 40 losses. They currently own the tie-breaker over Indiana, who also have the same record of 31-40.
The bounce back win over the Nets on Monday after a head scratching loss to the Pistons on Sunday night, plus the return of Isaiah Thomas was suppose to breathe new life into these exciting C's who are all in, in this playoff push. The starting five looked uninterested on Wednesday night and Stevens was not a happy camper and it was visible throughout the evening.
If there was ever such thing as a 'trap-game' or a 'slam dunk' in basketball, the C's play the 14-58 New York Knicks on Friday night at MSG. What a better way to punch away some stress than visiting the Knickerbockers when tip-off is at 7:30 EST
Isaiah Thomas, who had missed the previous eight games with a bruised lower back and left elbow due to a hard foul from Dwayne Wade on March 9, was back in the lineup and struggled to get any offense going for the Celtics who could have desperately used it. Boston shot 40-percent from the field, while Miami hit 44 percent of their shots.
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