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Celtics get revenge on Heat in first matchup since East finals

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 27 points in a win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday in Miami. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 27 points in a win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday in Miami. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

MIAMI, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Rookie Payton Pritchard followed a missed shot with a final-second putback basket to lead the Boston Celtics to a dramatic victory over the Miami Heat in the teams' first matchup since the Eastern Conference finals.

Pritchard's score came with .02 remaining in the 107-105 win Wednesday at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

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The game began with a brief delay before the teams released a joint statement to address the Capitol riot Wednesday in Washington, D.C. and a prosecutor's decision not to charge police on Tuesday in the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Miami and Boston then took the floor for a back-and-forth battle, reminiscent of their six-game Eastern Conference finals, which the Heat won to advance to the NBA Finals.

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"They did a good job of going out there and playing, under the circumstances," Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. "I don't know how they do it. These guys have an unbelievable ability to go out and play at an unbelievable level."



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Boston held a 10-point lead with 77 seconds remaining before Miami answered with three-consecutive 3-pointers, including an And-1 sequence from Duncan Robinson. The barrage tied the score before the Celtics' game-winning sequence.

Marcus Smart missed a driving layup with 3.2 seconds remaining before Pritchard came flying through the lane and tipped in his shot for the victory.

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"We worked our way back into it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It was just a game in the fourth quarter. They made some shots down the stretch. ... We just didn't get a handle on it. It was just a tough way to go at the end."

Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis came out hot in the first quarter to give the Celtics a 34-26 lead over the first 12 minutes. The Celtics held a 53-45 advantage at halftime before the Heat rallied.

The Heat began the third quarter with a 12-3 run to cut the Celtics' lead to one point. Miami later took momentum on a Jimmy Butler layup before they earned a five-point advantage.

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The Celtics bounced back to tie the game at 80-80 at the end of the quarter. The game continued to stay close down the stretch.

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Bam Adebayo gave Miami an 84-80 lead with two consecutive made shots at the start of the fourth quarter. The Celtics then tied the game again before Tatum made two free throws to give Boston a 90-89 edge.

Butler then hit a turnaround, fadeaway shot with 7:44 remaining to get the lead back for Miami. Brown answered with a game-tying 3-pointer with 4:06 remaining. Theis then hit a short jump shot with 3:09 remaining to give Boston a 97-95 lead.

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Tatum added a 3-pointer on the Celtics next possession to spark a 13-0 run. The Celtics appeared to have the game in hand, with a 105-95 lead with 1:17 remaining, before the Heat's 3-point barrage.

Robinson splashed in a 26-foot shot eight seconds later. He then made a 24-foot 3-pointer and was fouled by Tatum on the next possession. Robinson's seven-consecutive points cut the Celtics lead to 105-102 with 38.9 seconds remaining.

The Celtics had another empty possession before Goran Dragic made a game-tying 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds remaining. The Heat defense then failed to box out Pritchard on the next possession, which afforded space for his game-winning shot.

"Whenever we play them it always comes down to the last couple possessions," Robinson said of the Celtics. "We were unfortunate to come down on the wrong side of that one."

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Tatum scored a game-high 27 points. Brown scored 21 points and had 12 rebounds and five assists for Boston. Pritchard had three points, six rebounds and four assists in the victory.

Butler scored 26 points for the Heat. Adebayo chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The Celtics host the Washington Wizards at 7:30 p.m. EST Friday in Boston. The Heat face the Wizards at 7 p.m. EST Saturday in Washington, D.C.

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