Celtics come back from 26 point deficit to beat Miami Heat 98-88 and close out the regular season

Tonight's game vs. the Miami Heat was truly a tale of two halves. The first half, and first quarter in particular, were as ugly as it gets for Celtics fans. The 2nd half however, was why we are Celtics fans. With 2:55 left, after trailing by 26 points, Isaiah Thomas was stepping to the line to knock down two free throws to give the Celtics a 10 point lead before holding off Miami 98-88. HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN?

Before the game Brad Stevens stressed that intensity and togetherness were going to be the focus of the Celtics last game of the regular season. I'm guessing he only mentioned that to the media though because in the first quarter the Miami Heat took it to them to the tune of 35-13.

You thought the 2nd quarter vs. Charlotte was bad? Well, you're right. But this quarter sucked too, and it sucked even earlier. Are we sure Bill Walton didn't leave a tray of brownies in the locker room? Miami had 6 offensive rebounds that turned into 11 second chance points, outrebounded the C's in total 17-8, and shot 59% to our 21%. Goran Dragic was outscored by the Celtics 13-12 though, so choke on that Miami Beach.

The 2nd quarter wasn't much better. The lead was extended a point and stood at 62-38 at the half. The Heat couldn't miss, were more physical, were playing great defense, and seemed to be getting every loose ball. I believe at one point they collectively decided to not miss any shots. Bold strategy and major kudos to Erik Spoelstra.

Dwyane Wade was doing Dwyane Wade things, like spelling his name "Dwyane", hitting fadeaways, getting away with a foul that angered Jae Crowder into a technical, and cheap shotting Marcus Smart in transition. The lone highlight was Tommy Heinsohn permanently stealing a piece of my heart by saying "He's a dirty player" when watching the replay. Not coincidentally, Isaiah Thomas was held to 4 points on 1-9 shooting, and the C's were booed multiple times on their home court in front of all the legends in attendance.

The second half started with a spark though. The Celtics got a call or two, made a couple shots, got a few steals, I blinked, and with 7 minutes gone they had gone on a 23-3 run and the game was 65-61. This quarter was the reverse of the 2nd in Charlotte and 1st tonight.

The energy in the building had completely changed, it was apparent even through my television, and the Celtics were back. Miami was held to just 5 points (5 GOD DAMN POINTS!!!), and apparently did not like it either. There was a classic NBA "hold me back" moment to end the quarter after Marcus Smart got knocked down by Goran Dragic, Dragic pretended to be masculine, and double technicals were called on both sides. The 4th quarter was set to be a memorable one.

After being called for one of the double technical fouls on the Celtics, Evan Turner emphatically slammed one down to tie it up at 69 all, and Kelly Olynyk converted a layup plus the foul to seize the lead on the following play. After one of the worst halves of the entire season, the Celtics were playing one of their best, and definitely one of the most exciting. Jerebko's hitting 3's, Kelly is forcing Wade into airballs, Turner's everywhere, Bradley's everywhere, both teams are mouthy, Bill Belichick is on the jumbotron, and everything's coming up Beantown.

The second half was absolute magic for the C's. They completely regrouped, started rebounding and playing defense, and ran off one of the most impressive halves anywhere in the NBA this season. The entire rotation contributed, Miami was completely frustrated, and the Garden was rocking. The team came out hot and focused to start the 2nd half, and after the Dragic cheap shot rallied around Smart (led by Turner, he really was everywhere), and completely punked this Miami team.

Turner had 16 points and 4 assists, Bradley had 17 points (on 8-12 shooting) and 7 boards, Crowder chipped in 13 and Olynyk 11, and Isaiah Thomas had his customary 21 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds after a rough start. The Celtics comeback was the largest in the NBA this season.

So much for limping into the playoffs. What an incredible end to the regular season. See you in Atlanta.

Photo Credit: @MiamiHEAT

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