This was about trying to keep pace, with the Boston Celtics scoring at a pace that would have tested the Miami Heat on their best and healthiest nights.
With Boston entering averaging a league-leading 121.3 points per game, including 130.7 in their last three and 126 at home this season, this was going to be about more than the possibilities of Erik Spoelstra’s zombie zone defense that had terrorized opponents in the three-game winning streak his team carried into the night.
This was a case of how high the Heat could reach in the ongoing injury absence of Jimmy Butler.
The answer was plenty high, but not high enough, with Jayson Tatum scoring 49 Wednesday night to lead the Celtics to a 134-121 victory at TD Garden.
Oh, there were rallies, surges, spurts for the Heat, on a night Bam Adebayo scored 23, Max Strus 23 and Tyler Herro 22, but the league-leading Celtics simply winked and continually raised the ante.
To put into perspective the good fight the Heat put together, consider there were a season-high 18 3-pointers from Erik Spoelstra’s team, with Haywood Highsmith coming off the bench to shoot 4 of 6 on 3-pointers for a career-high 16 points.
Jaylen Brown added 26 points for the Celtics.
So make it 2-0 Celtics in the four-game season series that continues Friday night and concludes Jan. 24 in Miami. And make it 1-1 on this four-game trip that opened with Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks and concludes with Monday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: A wild first half saw the Heat fall behind 14 early, move back ahead, go down 10 in the second period and then trail 68-60 at halftime.
Through it all, Tatum had 41 points through three quarters, with the Celtics taking a 102-96 lead into the fourth, even with Strus scoring 19 in the third for the Heat.
The Heat then moved within two early in the fourth, but were forced to call time when Boston went up 116-108 with 7:09 to play.
Then, when the Heat closed the gap, Tatum replied with his ninth 3-pointer for a 131-121 Celtics lead with 1:39 left.
Adebayo then was ejected with dual technical fouls with 24 seconds to play.
2. Wild start: The Heat opened in a zone, but that didn’t last long, with Boston opening 5 of 5 from the field, racing to a 14-2 lead, and forcing a Heat timeout 2:10 into the game.
The Celtics’ second possession was a four-point play by Tatum that resulted in an Adebayo foul 56 seconds in.
Boston then moved to 7 of 7 from the field and 5 of 5 on 3-pointers, pushing their lead to 14.
The Celtics’ first miss was a Tatum 15-foot jumper with 8:22 left in the first.
But from there, Adebayo’s first 3-pointer since Jan. 25, 2021 tied it 25-25, with a driving Kyle Lowry layup giving the Heat a 27-25 lead with 4:07 left in that opening period, forcing a Celtics timeout.
The period ended with the Celtics up 38-35.
3. Working back: The Heat had three players back from the group that missed Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the start of this four-game trip.
That included backup point guard Gabe Vincent, who had missed five of the previous six games, with a left-knee effusion, and guard Duncan Robinson, who had missed the previous three games with a sprained left ankle.
In addition, rookie big man Nikola Jovic was available after missing Sunday’s game with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Out, however, was backup center Dewayne Dedmon, finally was forced to sit due to the plantar fasciitis in his left foot that has been lingering for weeks.
Even with Jovic listed as available, Udonis Haslem played as backup center in Dedmon’s absence.
4. Back at it: When the teams meet again Friday at TD Garden it will be the fourth time the Heat this season have faced the same opponent at the same venue in consecutive games. The previous three times were in Miami, with the Heat splitting with the Toronto Raptors and sweeping the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards.
The expectation is Butler will rejoin the Heat Thursday after missing the past seven games with knee soreness and then play Friday.
5. The Royals: In a not-so-typical pregame press release, the Celtics informed that, “Their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales are attending tonight’s National Basketball Association game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat at TD Garden.”
The two sat courtside near the Celtics bench alongside Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics managing partner), Emilia Fazzalari, Steve Pagliuca (Celtics co-owner), Judy Pagliuca, former Celtic Tom “Satch” Sanders, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Massachusetts Governor-elect. Maura Healey.