Celtics Build Huge Lead, Hang On To Beat Heat 105-95

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MIAMI (AP) — Isaiah Thomas drew blood from Justise Winslow. Other than that, most of Miami’s biggest problems were self-inflicted.

And the Boston Celtics reaped the benefits.

Thomas scored 23 points before getting ejected, Avery Bradley added 20 and the Celtics led by 22 points in the first half before hanging on to beat the Heat 105-95 on Sunday night.

“I thought we answered their runs well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “You knew they were going to come. … That’s a hard-playing team.”

Al Horford had 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to help the Celtics beat Miami for the fifth consecutive time.

“We’re playing well,” Horford said. “It shows we can close out games on the road.”

Miami turned the ball over 23 times, leading to 24 Boston points. And the Heat went 6 for 14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, 14 for 25 in the game to further cement themselves as the NBA’s worst free-throw-shooting team this season.

“Every time we had an opportunity, we coughed it up right as the momentum would shift,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s one of our most inefficient games of the year.”

Goran Dragic led all scorers with 31 points for Miami. Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds, all but one of those rebounds coming in the second half.

Thomas was ejected with 3:02 left for elbowing Winslow in the face, bloodying the Heat forward and being assessed with a flagrant-2 after a review.

Winslow needed sutures postgame, but said he didn’t think Thomas had intent. Neither did Stevens.

“(Referee) Tony Brothers didn’t think it was a flagrant-2 but he has to go with what they say,” Thomas said. “I’m happy we won but I’m disappointed that they kicked me out. There’s no reason for that.”

Winslow missed both resulting free throws — part of that season-long Miami problem — but the Heat seemed sparked nonetheless.

In just over a minute after Thomas’ ejection, the Heat had what was a 12-point deficit down to 97-93. Dragic connected on a 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:04 remaining and Tyler Johnson added a free throw not long afterward.

But the Heat got no closer.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get that second-half intensity in the first half,” Winslow said.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Boston’s 22-point lead was the biggest deficit the Heat have faced at home this season. Utah led Miami by 21. The Celtics also led by 19 at Miami earlier this season. … Former Heat guard Gerald Green (sore left hip) was sidelined. … The Celtics turned Miami’s first five turnovers into 12 points.

Heat: Dragic was 5 for 6 on 3s. … Wayne Ellington (hamstring) was out. His absence made Josh Richardson a starter, giving Miami its ninth lineup. … Dion Waiters (groin) missed his 12th consecutive game. … Whiteside’s third block gave him 457 with Miami, passing Joel Anthony for No. 4 in team history.

ROAD WARRIORS

Later this week, Boston will wrap up a stretch where 18 of its first 29 games came on the road. No team in the NBA has played fewer home games than the Celtics so far; Sacramento has also played 11, and San Antonio played its 12th on Sunday. “It’s part of it. You’ve got to play 41 road games. We’re playing a lot of ours early,” Stevens said.

NOT FREE

The Heat are on pace for the worst free-throw shooting season in franchise history. Sunday’s 14 for 25 effort dropped Miami’s season percentage to .662. The 2004-05 Heat shot .672 for the franchise low mark.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Visit Memphis on Tuesday, as a three-game trip continues.

Heat: Host Orlando on Tuesday, the next-to-last game in a six-game homestand.

(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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