NBA regular season

Heat fend off Celtics, clinch playoff spot

Heat fend off Celtics, clinch playoff spot

BIG BATTLE. Heat center Bam Adebayo goes for a shot against Celtics big man Al Horford.

Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Heat outlast the Celtics to book a playoff seat and keep their slim hold of the East top spot

Jimmy Butler scored 24 points, and Kyle Lowry added 23 points as the Miami Heat defeated the host Boston Celtics, 106-98, on Wednesday night, March 30 (Thursday, March 31, Manila time).

Bam Adebayo added 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds as Miami outscored Boston, 27-15, in the fourth quarter on the way to securing a spot in the NBA playoffs.

Miami (49-28) kept its narrow one-game lead in the Eastern Conference over the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston (47-30) and the Philadelphia 76ers both trail Miami by two games.

The Celtics, who still won the season series against Miami, 2-1, got 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists from Jalen Brown. Teammate Jayson Tatum added 23 points and 6 assists.

Also for Boston, Al Horford had a game-high 15 rebounds, and Marcus Smart had a team-high 8 assists. Smart was ejected with 10.8 seconds left in the game.

Boston used a 9-0 run to end the first quarter with a 29-25 lead. That run was interrupted by Miami’s Tyler Herro, who hit a three-pointer at the quarter buzzer. The Celtics had an 8-0 advantage on points off turnovers, and they got 11 points from Brown.

Miami closed the second quarter on a 9-1 run, taking a 53-52 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Miami stretched its lead to 69-58 with 7:51 left. But Boston responded with a 16-0 run and finished the quarter with an 83-79 advantage.

Miami fell behind 90-85 with 7:43 left in the fourth, but the Heat went on a 17-6 run to take control of the game with 1:43 left.

After a Tatum layup, Boston was trailing 102-98. Then, with 35 seconds left, Miami’s Max Strus drew an offensive foul on Tatum. Boston challenged, but the call stood after a video review.

“It felt like a playoff game,” Strus said after the game.

For the game, Miami shot 48.1%, including 13-for-34 on three-pointers.

Boston outscored Miami in the paint, 48-34, but the Celtics shot just 41.2% from the floor, including 11-for-37 on three-pointers. –