A disastrous fourth-quarter effort that included a scoreless stretch of over six minutes, a blown double-digit edge and a turnover in the final seconds led to the Boston Celtics falling 98-95 to the host Miami Heat on Tuesday.
The Celtics led 87-77 with 8:47 remaining, but a massive scoring drought propelled Miami to a 15-0 run.
Jayson Tatum, who finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, finally broke the slump with a three-point play.
Boston clawed back to tie the game at 95 on a Grant Williams three-pointer.
However, Miami center Bam Adebayo, who posted 30 points and 15 rebounds, countered with a jumper to put the Heat ahead for good.
Boston had a chance for the tie or the win, but head coach Joe Mazzulla opted against calling a timeout. The possession ended with Heat guard Tyler Herro intercepting a Tatum crosscourt pass.
Boston got another shot to tie the game after Haywood Highsmith made one of two free throws, but a Payton Pritchard three-point attempt did not connect.
The Celtics entered this game missing Jaylen Brown (right adductor strain), Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain), Al Horford (lower back stiffness) and Malcolm Brogdon (personal reasons), so they weren't close to full strength.
The Heat weren't either with Jimmy Butler (lower back tightness) missing this one, but the Celtics were ultimately missing four of their six top scorers. Besides the seven turnovers, Tatum played very well, and Derrick White (23 points) was also exceptional.
But their efforts weren't enough in a game Boston should have won. The Celtics were ultimately too sloppy with 17 turnovers. Tatum had as many turnovers as the entire Heat team. The giveaways helped the Heat win despite shooting just 36.2 percent from the field.
This was also a quiet night from the bench, which scored just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
The Celtics still sport the league's best record at 35-14 despite losing on back-to-back nights after falling 113-98 to the Orlando Magic on Monday. A nine-game winning streak leading up to the pair of losses in Florida kept Boston at the top.
Tuesday proved to be a missed opportunity, however, and Twitter gave its take on the matter.
Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA
It's on everyone.<br><br>Tatum could have called a timeout himself when it went to crap. Or he could have swung it to White, at the very least.<br><br>Mazzulla could have called timeout.<br><br>Anyone on the floor could have called timeout when it was going to crap.<br><br>It was bad on all of them. <a href="https://t.co/auNBhVfum2">https://t.co/auNBhVfum2</a>
Donna Winter @jamaicanceltic
<a href="https://twitter.com/jaytatum0?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jaytatum0</a> has a turnover problem. Probably worse than last year, if that is possible. <a href="https://twitter.com/celtics?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@celtics</a> preach about not turning over the ball and proceed to have 17 TOs a game. INFURIATING <a href="https://t.co/WvwZudkuXL">https://t.co/WvwZudkuXL</a>
Boston will look to bounce back Thursday at home against the New York Knicks.