Final, Celtics 111-110: What just happened? Jeff Green happened.
On the final day of a week that began with him drawing some criticism for his fourth-quarter disappearing act, Green came up huge with an improbable, fadeaway 3-pointer from the far corner as time expired to give the Celtics a win over the Heat.
Green scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, nearly going shot-for-shot with LeBron James, who came within two rebounds of a triple-double. But the reigning MVP’s 25 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and numerous big shots to seemingly hold off the Celtics down the stretch ended up getting overshadowed by Green’s big shot.
The Celtics now have won three in a row and head back to Boston for a chance to even their record against the Magic on Monday.
Fourth quarter, :00.6, Heat 110-108: Hold on a second.
This one should be over. Dwyane Wade went to the line with a chance to ice it, but he missed the first free throw and intentionally missed the second by firing it off the backboard.
Of course, you can’t do that. The ball has to hit the rim. The Celtics will get the ball back on the violation with a chance to tie or win.
Fourth quarter, :03.6, Heat 108-106: Rookie mistakes.
Kelly Olynyk got a great look off the inbound, but he tried to jump into the defender to get the foul. He didn’t get the foul and he didn’t make the shot, then sent LeBron James to the line, where the MVP netted both.
Fourth quarter, :19.1, Heat 108-106: The defense stands strong and the Celtics have a chance to tie — or even win — on their final possession.
Avery Bradley played stellar defense to prevent a drive by Dwyane Wade, then Jeff Green made a perfect close-out to force Chris Bosh to take a long jumper with his foot on the 3-point line.
Celtics ball. Here we go.
Fourth quarter, :38.4, Heat 108-106: Despite some questionable shots by Jordan Crawford, the Crawford-Bradley backcourt just keeps delivering for Boston.
Bradley nailed a step-back jumper to put the Celtics back within two points, a few minutes after hitting Kelly Olynyk for a free throw line jumper. LeBron James is LeBron James, though, and he’s netted two tough jump shots over tough defense by Jeff Green.
Brandon Bass, who came in to replace Olynyk, was able to pressure James into finally missing right before Bradley capitalized with his jumper.
Fourth quarter, 3:09, Heat 104-100: Chris Bosh is still having his way against Kelly Olynyk, but Avery Bradley is picking up the slack at the offensive end.
Bradley hit a big 3-pointer and dashed in for a layup as the shot clock expired to help the Celtics stay within striking distance of Miami. The backcourt of Jordan Crawford and Bradley has been extremely productive for the Celtics. Let’s see if they can produce a win over the Heat.
Fourth quarter, 5:51, Heat 97-93: Kelly Olynyk is in the game. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a questionable move — unless you’re a fan of the tank.
Olynyk has not been good tonight, and Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass (who Olynyk replaced) have all been better. Maybe coach Brad Stevens just wants to get those guys a rest before bringing one back in, but the results have been almost immediately disastrous.
Chris Bosh easily went baseline past Olynyk to get fouled, then barreled into the lane to draw a blocking foul on a stationary Olynyk. Yes, Olynyk probably should have gotten the charging foul, but a rookie is not going to get that call in a close game in Miami. Stevens needs to recognize that.
Fourth quarter, 8:18, Heat 93-89: Jeff Green just keeps shooting and keeps hitting. He is having an incredibly solid game, helping the Celtics stay in it late in Miami.
Part of Green’s success has to do with the way Brad Stevens is using him. Gone are the plays where Green catches the ball on the wing and isolates. The Celtics have been getting Green the ball as he moves or when he can catch-and-shoot, when his percentage goes way up.
End of third quarter, Heat 82-80: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade say this isn’t a rivalry anymore. Somebody forgot to tell the Celtics.
The Celtics have hung tough with the defending champs, twice tying the score late in the third quarter on jumpers by Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger. They have done so with some weird lineups and some terrible lack of effort by the Heat, who have made a habit of complaining about every non-call rather than getting back on defense.
Not surprisingly, an irritated Erik Spoelstra has responded by going to his bench. Wade shared the floor with Chris Andersen, Rashard Lewis, Norris Cole and Ray Allen to finish the third quarter. There’s no promise that group will be any more effective, but at least they can focus on the Celtics and not on the zebras.
Third quarter, 3:16, Heat 75-74: If the NBA were to track Times Not Crossing Halfcourt on Defense, the Heat might lead the NBA. It would be just another statistic they would lead the league in, but still.
Chris Bosh felt he was fouled and never even bothered to get up floor while Avery Bradley converted a layup at the other end to make it a one-point game. Moments like that — which Dwyane Wade is the master of, by the way — explain why the Heat, for all their talent, are susceptible to some bad regular-season losses. They just cannot focus on an overmatched opponent for 48 minutes on a regular basis.
Third quarter, 5:43, Heat 71-68: Jordan Crawford has been stellar this season for the Celtics, but he’s still himself at heart.
Crawford took two straight very Jordan Crawford-like shots, stopping on the break to take a 3-pointer rather than throwing the ball ahead to Avery Bradley and then slowing the ball on a 4-on-3 opportunity to take a contested 15-footer. The Heat, who make teams pay for every mistake with a dunk, layup or easy jumper, came back and responded with a Dwyane Wade jumper.
Crawford’s ill-advised shots undid some lights-out shooting by Jeff Green. The Celtics sharpshooter (at least for now) is 2-for-2 from deep in this quarter after going 1-for-2 in the first half.
Halftime, Celtics 60-59: Nothing like a B.S. 28-footer at the buzzer to make your night.
Jordan Crawford closed an overall productive second quarter for the Celtics by getting trapped deep on the left wing and having to let fly a shot as the clock expired. The ball found twine, which is sort of how this first half went for the Celtics. They did enough things well to capitalize with some luck.
Both teams are shooting 60 percent or better from the field, which is why they have only combined for 30 rebounds. There aren’t a lot of boards to go around. They’ve also moved the ball well, although the Heat more so: Miami has 14 assists on 22 baskets.
The Celtics haven’t gotten great interior defense, although they have outscored the Heat in the paint 30-28. The Heat also have 19 free throws, however, converting 13, as a result of 14 Boston fouls.
Crawford leads the Celtics with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting. Every Celtic who has played has scored, including Phil Pressey, who scored five points in the closing minutes to help the Celtics take the lead. LeBron James has 13 points, leading four Miami players in double figures.
Second quarter, 2:45, Heat 52-50: The Heat weren’t going to stay down for long. Now let’s see just what these Celtics have in them.
After pulling ahead by four points, the Celtics have to fend off LeBron James and company. Make that Michael Beasley and company. Beasley broke his ice by easily slipping past Kelly Olynyk for a dunk and just kept on going.
Beasley drew a questionable charging foul on Gerald Wallace and proceeded to score the next six points for the Heat.
Second quarter, 5:52, Celtics 46-42: Another game, another big second quarter for Courtney Lee.
Lee, who scored 11 points in the second quarter on Friday to pull the Celtics within three points at halftime of a game they would eventually win, now has six points in this second quarter in Miami.
What’s more, Lee’s baskets haven’t come off mismatches or junk plays, either. He has been guarded by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. (To be fair, all Lee’s buckets came off motion, not one-on-one play, but that should go without saying.)
We also got a look at Michael Beasley, the former Heat draft pick who is back on South Beach hoping for redemption after disappointing tenures in Minnesota and Phoenix.
Second quarter, 9:51, Celtics 35-34: Just when the Celtics looked like they wouldn’t have an answer for the Heat, Vitor Faverani and Kris Humphries came to the rescue.
Yes, you did just read that sentence.
With Faverani and Humphries serving as twin towers, the Celtics outscored Miami 10-3 in the first two minutes of the second quarter and surged into the lead. Humphries was rewarded with a fastbreak and-one layup on an assist by Phil Pressey, who replaced Jordan Crawford late in the first quarter.
Brad Stevens is going with some unconventional lineups against the Heat, but when you’re facing the two-time defending champs, you’ve got to try anything.
End of first quarter, Heat 31-25: Owing to a Miami defense that has some issues, the Celtics’ offense looked pretty sharp in the first quarter.
Boston’s defense, on the other hand, was about as unsightly as it gets.
Brandon Bass was unable to slow down LeBron James, who got to the rack at will. James wasn’t just scoring either, although he did that, too. James has nine points and four assists, but he’s not even the Heat’s leading scorer. That would be Chris Bosh, with 10 points.
Vitor Faverani has yet to make an appearance in this game, but it’s hard to think he would be any worse protecting the rim than the Celtics have been so far. The Heat have 14 points in the paint and 11 free throw attempts already.
First quarter, 5:09, Heat 18-12: Kelly Olynyk’s jump shot is not just a rumor after all. The rookie has shot 37.5 percent from the field and missed all nine 3-pointers he took this season before swishing a three to open the game.
From there, it was all downhill for the Celtics. The Heat outscored the Celtics 18-9 since Olynyk’s shot and Chris Bosh is having a field day. The Celtics’ lack of an interior defender — Vitor Faverani is on the bench, Brandon Bass is defending LeBron James and Olynyk is not much of a rim protector — has made it very easy for the Heat to get to the bucket and to victimize Boston on the pick and roll.
The Heat are 7-of-10 from the field and have assisted six of their seven field goals.
7:03 p.m.: Brandon Bass has never led an NBA team in scoring, but he is close to it this season.
Through six games, Bass is averaging 13.7 points per game, which would beat his career best of 12.5 points per game during his first year in Boston. He’s also coming off a game in which he outscored Jeff Green, the Celtics’ current leading scorer at 15.8 points per game.
Green has been maddeningly inconsistent this season as Celtics coaches, fans and reporters wonder how in the world to get him to perform at the same level every night. Bass, by contrast, has scored between 16 and 20 points in four of the Celtics’ six games and has been their best back line defender.
6:08 p.m.: While his highlights and raw stats have looked good, Vitor Faverani has not been as productive this season as some would have you believe. So it is not surprising that he will head to the bench to start the game in Brad Stevens’ second starting lineup shakeup of the season.
Kelly Olynyk will start in Faverani’s place as the Celtics go for their third win in a row. The rookie will join Jordan Crawford, who is making his third straight start.
Although Faverani shocked the world by blocking nine shots in the first two games, the Celtics have actually been better with him on the bench. In some cases, they have been much better. They are grabbing a higher percentage of available rebounds with him out of the game, and their offensive and defensive ratings that 15-point swings — for the better — when he is not playing. Their pace also slows from an OK 97.1 possessions per 48 minutes to a snail-slow 93.6 possessions per 48 minutes.
Stevens surely knows these numbers, so if your buddy in the Larry Bird jersey yells about how Faverani should be starting the game “buhcuz he’s a wickid good shot-blockah,” tell him to sit down and cool off.
Is Olynyk the answer? Who knows? The point is both are rookie big men and both require extended looks.
The full starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: LeBron James and the Heat aren’t exactly vulnerable, but they’re not firing on all cylinders, either.
Even before James disclosed Friday that tightness in his lower back could force him to miss some games, the Heat looked far from invincible in this young season. They already have losses to the Sixers and Nets on their ledger, and had to work to get wins over the Wizards and Raptors.
Next up is a familiar foe they shouldn’t have any trouble vanquishing. Celtics versus Heat will have a lot less juice than it has the last few years, with none of the significant players from playoff battles past still on the court for Boston. (No, we didn’t forget about Jeff Green and Avery Bradley. We just don’t count them among the “significant” players from those memorable series.)
Compared to where they were a week ago, though, the Celtics are rolling. They head into Miami winners of two straight after Friday’s close win over the Magic and would make coach Brad Stevens’ day if they could complete their two-game trip through Florida undefeated.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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