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Five takeaways: Heat showcases depth in impressive win over Celtics

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 115-99 win over the Boston Celtics (25-16) on Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

1. With 12 rotation-level players healthy, coach Erik Spoelstra expanded the rotation Thursday. After using a 10-man rotation for most of the season, the Heat (20-20) went 11 deep against the Celtics.

That means Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Dwyane Wade, Dion Waiters, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Johnson all played. The only active Heat players who did not get in the game were Wayne Ellington and Udonis Haslem.

The result was a balanced attack, as the Heat had six players finish with double digit points. Seven players logged at least 20 minutes of action.

This is one way to find minutes for Jones, who did not play in Tuesday’s loss to the Nuggets with Waiters playing extended minutes for the first time this season. The Heat missed Jones’ athleticism and rebounding in that contest, as Denver outrebounded Miami 50-38.

So Spoelstra decided to expand the Heat’s rotation to 11 to add Jones in. The question is, can Miami continue playing 11 moving forward? One of the Heat’s biggest strengths is its depth, and this is definitely one way to leverage that.

2. Miami’s elite-level defense made an appearance against Boston. The Heat usually wins when its defense is on, and it was on Thursday. Miami limited Boston to 99 points on 40.4 percent shooting. While Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting, the rest of the team combined to shoot 26 of 70 (37.1 percent).

It was one of the Heat’s most impressive defensive performances of the season, considering the Celtics entered with the league’s top offensive rating over their last 20 games. Miami held Boston to its fewest single-game point total since it scored 86 in a loss to the Jazz on Nov. 17 and its lowest single-game shooting percentage since a loss to the Knicks on Nov. 21.

The Heat is now 13-1 this season when holding its opponent under 100 points.

3. When adversity struck, Wade stepped up to settle the Heat.

After Boston used a big 24-6 run to cut Miami’s 26-point lead to eight with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter, Wade scored nine straight in a two-minute stretch to end the Celtics’ surge.

At the end of Wade’s nine-point run, Miami led by 13. The Heat controlled the game from there.

Wade finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting in 23 minutes off the bench.

Who knows what would have happened if Wade had not taken over for the Heat during that critical stretch.

4. Spoelstra spoke before Thursday’s game about the need for Miami to win the rebounding battle after two disappointing performances on the glass. The Heat ended up dominating the boards against the Celtics.

Miami outrebounded Boston 51-37, which is usually a good sign for a Heat team that entered averaging the fifth-most rebounds per game in the NBA.

The Heat is 13-8 this season when outrebounding its opponent.

Miami had lost the rebounding battle in each of its previous two games (both losses) by a combined margin of 109-79.

5. The Celtics were one of the hottest teams in the league, but the rested Heat took advantage of favorable circumstances Thursday. While Miami was off Wednesday, Boston hosted the Indiana Pacers to start a home-and-road back-to-back set. The Celtics won their fourth straight in a 135-108 blowout. Boston then took a late three-hour flight to Miami for its matchup against the Heat, which marked the Celtics’ third game in four nights.

It’s overly simplistic to blame Boston’s loss on this, but it definitely didn’t hurt. This was something Miami couldn’t take advantage of Tuesday against Denver, which was also playing its third game in four nights on the second night of a back-to-back set.

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