MIAMI — During a second-quarter timeout in the Celtics’ game against the Heat on Monday night, a fan was plucked from the stands to take part in a contest in which he’d attempt a 3-pointer while sitting down.
The man plopped into a folding chair just beyond the right arc and heaved a shot that banked off the backboard and through the net. And on the Heat bench, there might have been some envy.
Undermanned Miami was thudding and clunking its way through a forgettable night against the Celtics. The Heat missed their first 14 3-point attempts and were never able to dig their way out of that hole despite a 73-point second-half, as the Celtics grabbed a 112-104 win.
“We weren’t really well-organized,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his team’s messy first half. “Guys were trying to really will it in the second quarter, and that’s not how this team is built.”
The Celtics’ 17-point halftime lead was enough of a cushion as Miami tried to mount an improbable comeback. But even as the Heat poured in one point after another, the Celtics did, too, never really ceding control of the game.
Celtics forward Al Horford missed the game to be with his family after the birth of his daughter, but the Celtics had enough firepower without him. Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points and 8 assists despite making just 7 of 23 shots. Avery Bradley had 18 points and 6 rebounds.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the outcome all but decided, Marcus Smart was involved in several physical plays that gradually escalated into something more.
With 3:17 left in and the Celtics leading, 100-88, Smart jumped to block Hassan Whiteside at the rim and aggressively brought both of his arms down. The play looked violent in real time, although replays appeared to show he made little contact with Whiteside. Nevertheless, Smart, who has developed a reputation for his hard-nosed play, was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul.
Thirty-seven seconds later, the Heat started intentionally fouling Smart to send him to the free-throw line. Smart is just a 55 percent free-throw shooter this year, but entering Monday he had also taken just 20 foul shots all season.
When Goran Dragic tried to foul him with 2:26 left, Smart pushed back. It was ruled a double-foul, and Smart received a technical foul. Smart declined to speak to reporters in the locker room afterward, but in a postgame interview with Comcast SportsNet he said:
“I’m just looking around like, ‘What am I doing? I’m not saying anything to the officials.’ You know, but we’re playing hard. It’s hard. I’m not making free throws and I usually make them.”
Thomas, who received 14 technical fouls last season, tried to play the role of mediator. He said it can be a challenge with a player like Smart, whose tough, physical play is part of his ethos.
“But at the same time as a leader I’ve just got to make sure he knows the situation of the game,” Thomas said, “and that he’s very important to our team, and we need him.”
Dragic paced Miami with 27 points and 17 assists, and Whiteside added 25 points and 17 rebounds. Miami was without injured rotation players Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, and Tyler Johnson.
As the Heat scuffled in the second quarter, the Celtics were getting to the basket with little resistance and finding open shots when they moved the ball crisply. A layup by Tyler Zeller with 4:23 left capped an 18-4 burst, and with 6.4 seconds remaining in the half Jae Crowder banked a 3-pointer off the glass to give the Celtics a 48-31 lead at the break.
The Heat’s first-half statistics were grisly. They shot 37.8 percent from the field, committed 11 turnovers, and missed all 12 of their 3-point attempts. Given their struggles this season, and their lack of manpower, there was little reason to believe the second half would bring a much different result.
Then the third quarter began, and before long, the Heat could not miss. After their first two 3-pointers of the quarter were off, stretching the drought to 0 for 14, they drained three in a row and did not stop there.
With 0.9 seconds left Wayne Ellington caught an inbounds pass in the right corner and drilled another 3, giving his team 42 points in the third quarter after totaling just 31 in the first half. The Heat’s quarter was close to perfect offensively. They were 14 for 21 from the field and did not commit a turnover.
Their problem was that they weren’t able to slow the Celtics, either. Boston shot 54.2 percent and turned the ball over just once, as the Heat only managed to slice the deficit from 17 points to 10.
“We scored at a good level, too,” Thomas said. “But if we want to be the team we want to be, we can’t allow those types of quarters.”