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Two of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference met on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Both were without key big men, Chris Bosh for the Heat and Kelly Olynyk for the Celtics, while Miami was playing with an eye toward signing recently released Joe Johnson from the waiver wire later in the day.

The Celtics got off to a very sluggish start, shooting 31.8 percent and committing six turnovers in the first quarter, but a late push by the second unit limited the damage to an eight-point deficit at 26-18. Brad Stevens left the reserves on the floor for more than six minutes to start the second, and it paid off, as Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller keyed a 10-2 run to tie the game up.


Ultimately, Miami's starters were able to stop the bleeding and gave the visitors a 49-46 halftime lead. The Celtics' starting five, led by Jae Crowder and Jared Sullinger, finally found their groove in the second half, taking the lead with a 13-2 run, but Goran Dragić kept the Heat in the game, and Boston held a two-point lead after three quarters. The final period was a back-and-forth affair until the final three minutes, when the C's pulled away to take a double-digit lead and secure the victory late.


Boston had six players in double figures: Marcus Smart with a team-best 15, Crowder and Turner (also nine assists) with 14 apiece, and 12 each for Sullinger (double double with 12 rebounds), Isaiah Thomas (who shot just 4-for-17 from the floor) and Zeller. Dragić had a game-high 21 points for Miami, who also got 19 from Dwyane Wade, 13 with 15 boards and eight blocks from Hassan Whiteside, and 11 each from Luol Deng and Josh Richardson.

With the win, the Celtics take a two-game lead over the Heat and clinch a potential tiebreaker. The two teams will meet once more this season, on April 13 back at the Garden, in the regular season finale.

Follow Nick García on Twitter @N_A_Garcia

Image credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Nick García 2/27/2016 05:29:00 PM Edit
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