C's Bench Turns Up Heat in Miami, Torches NBA's Hottest Team
The Miami Heat had the hottest start in the NBA through the first two weeks of the season, winning six out of their first seven games with an average point differential of plus-16.7. On Thursday night, however, it was the Boston Celtics that brought the heat to Miami.
Despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a well-rested foe, the Celtics managed to torch the Heat in a 95-78 victory. And surprisingly, it was their bench that made the difference.
On a night when Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for just 27 points, Boston’s second unit stepped up for 45 in the scoring column, accounting for nearly half of the team’s offensive output.
Dennis Schroder was the steady veteran hand that guided the second unit, as he turned in 14 points, five rebounds, two steals, and a game-high six assists in 30 minutes of action. Though, he also got a helping hand from some of Boston’s youngsters, including Aaron Nesmith (13 points) and Romeo Langford (12 points).
“They just gotta stay ready and that's what they did,” Schroder said of his fellow second-unit teammates. “I see it every day – [they] wake up, put in work, and try to get better at things. It translated today.”
Nesmith’s performance was particularly satisfying, considering how the second-year wing had tallied a total of just three points in 30 minutes of action through Boston’s first eight games. But he came off the bench with confidence in the first quarter and dropped in his first field-goal attempt of the game on a driving layup, and it was all up from there.
“I’m always prepared,” said Nesmith, who shot 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range. “Whenever my name is called, it’s not a shock to me just because I keep the same schedule every day. So whether I play or don’t play, I’m ready to play at all times.”
Langford was also ready when his name got called in the first quarter. The third-year wing provided balanced scoring from all over the court, dropping two buckets inside the paint, two more from beyond the 3-point arc, and another two from the free-throw line. He was also a plus-25 in 27 minutes of action, which was the second-best plus-minus rating in the game after Schroder’s plus-26.
Langford took pride in the fact that he and Nesmith were able to provide some assistance off the bench on a night when the Jays weren’t on their A-game following a strong win in Orlando the night before.
“We feel like every game is important just to give the starters some help coming off the bench and some energy,” Langford said. “We knew it was the second night of a back-to-back, so we had to bring it a little bit more because we knew from last game, guys were going to be a little tired. I felt we did that.”
As important as their scoring was, Langford and Nesmith’s impact on defense was even more crucial. They provided high-energy plays on that end of the floor while helping to limit Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson to a combined 13-of-35 shooting from the field.
With Langford and Nesmith’s help, the Celtics held their second consecutive opponent to fewer than 80 points, after beating Orlando 92-79 the previous night. It marked the first time since April of 2012 that Boston’s defense had back-to-back sub-80-point efforts. And the fact that one of those games came against Miami, the highest-scoring offense in the NBA entering Thursday night, was quite an impressive feat.
“I think it was a statement game,” said Nesmith. “They’re No. 1 in the East and they’re playing well, they have a really good team. So for us to come out and hold them to what we did defensively, we’ll definitely just carry it and move forward.”
The next and final stop of Boston’s three-game road trip will take place Saturday night in Dallas, where the Celtics will look to build upon their defensive momentum and bring home a sweep.