Miami, FL—Celtics guard Payton Pritchard scored on a put-back with a few seconds left to give Boston a 107-105 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.
Players from Miami and Boston decided to play Wednesday after a pre-game meeting to discuss events of the past few days – the ruling that a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer won’t face charges in the shooting of Jacob Blake and the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Boston head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged later he didn’t think the game would be played. “To be honest at 30 minutes before tip, I didn’t think we were playing,” he said. “Then coaches left the room and players talked and chose to play.
“If our guys chose not to play tonight, they had the full support of my staff, myself and our organization.”
Players from both teams released a joint statement just before tip-off. “2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed,” the statement read. “We play tonight’s game with a heavy heart after yesterday’s decision in Kenosha, and knowing that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on. The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.”
“We have decided to play tonight’s game to try to bring joy into people’s lives. But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America.”
Most players from both teams knelt for the national anthem. Heat’s Meyers Leonard stood, as he did in the bubble.
The NBA and NFL players have been using its platform to speak out on systemic racism and police brutality with t-shirts and symbolic protests. NBA teams stop kneeling during the national anthem for the 2020-21 season.
Boston, which shot 53.8 percent in the first quarter, led by as many as 12 points before heading into the second period with a 34-26 lead.
Both teams scored 19 points in the second quarter, and the Celtics — which led by as many as 17 points — went into the break with a 53-45 lead.
Boston’s victory was fueled by its 56-40 advantage in the paint.
Celtics Jaylen Brown scored 21 points, he was 8-for-23 from the floor. Brown’s 3-pointer over the Heat’s two-three zone with 4:06 left in the game tied it 95.
After Jimmy Butler missed, Marcus Smart passed to Daniel Theis for a dunk that gave the Celtics a 97-95 lead. Jayson Tatum and Brown took the game over. Andre Iguodala missed a shot on the wing, Tatum hit a long trey with a outstretched hand in his face.
Miami’s Tyler Herro tried to answer but missed and Brown made another three to make it 103-95. After a Butler miss, Theis scored at the other end and just like that Boston had a 10-point lead with 1:17 left on the clock leading 105-95.
Duncan Robinson made a deep three from downtown, followed by a 4-point play as Boston’s shooting touch disappeared. Goran Dragic made a 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds left to tie the game at 105-105 setting up the final sequence but got a few stops down court and sealed the game.
Jayson Tatum scored 27 points to lead Boston (6-3), while Butler had 26 points for Miami and Robinson chipped in 16 points (3-4).
“You just have to tip your hat to all the pros in both locker rooms”, Spoelstra said. “Everybody does have a lot on their mind and heavy hearts, disappointment, discouragement, all of these different emotions. And they hand you a ball and they say you have to compete and forget about it. It’s not an easy thing to compartmentalize time and time again, particularly after the bubble when we shut it down hoping there would be change”.
Celtics: Host Washington on Friday.
Heat: Visit Washington on Saturday.