The first quarter futility of their Monday night Game 4 loss at TD Garden came to the Miami Heat midway through the second half this time.
That leaves only two options for the Heat’s next home game: a Sunday Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in these Eastern Conference finals, or next October at the start of the franchise’s 35th season.
Unable to complete a shot, most notably a three-pointer, the Heat fell in a 3-2 series on Wednesday night with a 93-80 loss. The Celtics can close the series Friday night with a Game 6 win at their home turf.
It was a game that the Heat started with physical pain and ended in serial distress.
Jimmy Butler, clearly still suffering from a beam knee, was off again with his shot, this time 4 of 18.
Kyle Lowry, who had yet to overcome the opening round hamstring injury, was largely immobile, without a point or assist.
And Tyler Herro couldn’t even make the opening jump, holding out for a second straight game with a groin injury.
“If you want to break through and save a ticket to the final, you will have to do ridiculously hard things,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “If you go to Boston and figure that out together, those are the emotions and the breakthroughs you have that you think about for the rest of your life.”
Center Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but otherwise there was little against the stifling Celtics defense.
“We are not looking for excuses for anything,” said Spoelstra. “We’re not turning down anything. We’re not making excuses for it. We lost the game today. We had a big loss in Boston. We’re still alive. We have a chance to play in front of a big crowd and a chance to create a memory that you will remember for a long time.
“That’s all we’re thinking about right now. And we’ve got the kind of warriors that strap on, brace themselves, do whatever we need to do to prepare for the next one and just embrace that competition and enjoy it.”
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points, supported by 22 from Jayson Tatum and 16 from Al Horford.
The Celtics don’t take anything for granted.
“We still know what the deal is and what the task is,” coach Ime Udoka.
Five degrees of heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat led 19-17 at the end of the first quarter and 42-37 at halftime.
But with a 10-0 run to close out the third quarter, the Celtics took a 69-58 lead in the fourth, the game’s first double-digit lead.
From there, the Celtics took off, their series eventually growing to 24-2, the Heat almost as clumsy as their 18-1 start to Monday night’s Game 4 loss in Boston.
“At the end of the third, that last one probably three or four minutes from the third and into the fourth, I think the successive missed shots, open shots, started to affect us on the other side and we started to break down a little bit . on the other side,” said Spoelstra. “But we just have to stick to the lesson. As disappointing and frustrating as this game can be, we’re going to Boston and get together to sort it out and come back here on the 29th.”
2. Lowry, can’t: Lowry has clearly been unable to get up to speed with the hamstring injury that kept him out of the last two games of the previous round and the first two of this series.
Running the ball across the field and often letting others handle it, Lowry was pulled midway through the fourth quarter.
He closed out 0 for 6 and 0 for 5 on 3-pointers in his 24:40, with five errors and three turnovers.
“Just try to play and help the team win no matter what the situation is,” Lowry said. “When I’m there, I have to play and play better.”
The Heat’s only life as a point guard came from Gabe Vincent, whose 10 points tied with Adebayo for team high at the end of the third quarter. Vincent finished with 15.
3. Butler Can’t: Though out of the injury report two games after sitting out the second half of Saturday’s Game 3 due to knee pain, it looked like Butler again had no blast.
A game after shooting 3 of 14 Monday in Boston, Butler this time opened 1 of 7 from the field, often out on drives that needed stronger finishes.
He then dropped to 2 of 10 for his next basket.
He later took the lead with a three-pointer in that opening period, his second of the series, but then made a three-point attempt on the Heat’s first possession of the fourth.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter,” Butler said over his knee. “When I’m out there, I have to do better.
“I’m fine, my knee is fine. I just have to do better.”
4. Remotely Doomed: The Heat closed 7 of 45 on 3 pointers, with Game 3 hero Max Strus 0 for 7, Lowry 0 for 5, Vincent 1 for 7, Duncan Robinson 3 for 10 and Butler and PJ Tucker 1 for 5 each. It made the Celtics’ 10 of 33 seem robust in comparison.
The Heat led the NBA in regular season 3-point shooting, at .379, but entered the playoff field with 16 teams on Wednesday the 13th at .326, before .156.
“We just weren’t able to offensively overcome the inefficiency,” Spoelstra said. “I do want to go to the movies. I know everyone says that afterwards, but I feel like we spent most of the night firing in our wheelhouse.”
5. Revised Rotation: Small ball was the order of the day with the Heat, with 6-foot-5 Tucker poured in the middle after the first wave of substitutions and Dewayne Dedmon shook out of the mix.
Victor Oladipo and Vincent came in together first from the bench, followed by Robinson, who was brought in before Caleb Martin and Dedmon.
It was the second consecutive game that Oladipo was essentially cast in the role of Herro’s sixth man.
Martin later came in as ninth man, before Spoelstra reached for Robinson during the Heat shootings.
Spoelstra said he was comfortable with the small-ball approach.
“I thought it was good,” he said. “I thought, again, we were performing on purpose, on purpose. It’s not all perfect. We had some turnover at key moments when we had leads that we might have pushed a little further. †