MIAMI (AP) — Jayson Tatum had 27 points, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown had 24 each and the Boston Celtics dominated the first half to roll past the Miami Heat 127-102 on Thursday night and the Eastern Conference Finals at a game apiece to reach.
Smart was a rebound just short of a triple-double after adding 12 assists and nine rebounds.
Grant Williams scored 19 points for Boston, who used a 17-0 run late in the first quarter – fueled by five 3-pointers in the six-possession span – to seize control. Payton Pritchard and Al Horford each had 10s for the Celtics.
Jimmy Butler had 29 points in 32 minutes for Miami, which fell to 7-1 at home in this playoff. Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladpio each scored 14 points, and Tyler Herro added 11 for the Heat.
The Celtics — now 4-0 in this playoffs in the game immediately following a loss — made 20 shots from 3-point range on Miami’s 10. Game 3 is in Boston on Saturday.
And the lead could have been worse: Boston led in fourth place by as much as 34 points, putting this game on the cusp of a really good Celtics story and a really bad Heat story. The Celtics’ record for biggest postseason win of all time stands at 40, the Heat’s record for biggest postseason loss of all time is 36, and those numbers were within reach in the final moments before a meaningless Miami run.
Boston trailed by 10 points in the first quarter and edged Miami 60-21 over the next 18 minutes – a 39-point turnaround that resulted in a 70-45 halftime lead.
The 25-point halftime lead was the Celtics’ widest in a playoff game by road, surpassing a 22-point lead at the break in Chicago 2009.
Brown had 11 points in the first quarter as the Celtics went 9 to 11 from 3-point range. Tatum then had 17 points in the second and Boston continued to pull away on a day when everything was going in the Celtics’ direction. They learned earlier in the day that two starters – Horford (virus-related issues) and Smart (metatarsal sprain) – have been cleared for Game 2 after missing the series opener.
“I need to rest, I need to restore my health, I need to watch and see some things and come out and perform in this game,” Smart said.
And the good news came late into the night.
Butler did everything he could to attempt a comeback, scoring 16 points in the third quarter and taking the Heat to 17. But a 12-2 run late in the quarter by the Celtics restored a 27-point lead. The lead was 96-71 before the fourth and the result was never remotely in question the rest of the way.
Miami didn’t even use their starters in the fourth quarter.
Celtics: Technically, Boston had another “away game” with a larger half-time advantage. The Celtics were the designated visitor on September 7, 2020 — inside the Walt Disney World bubble — as they led Toronto by 27 at the break. … With Horford back, Grant Williams returned to his role off the bench. … Tatum got his second foul at 4:14 in the first after driving into Butler. He spent the entire 17-0 run on the bench.
Heat: Kyle Lowry (hamstring) sat for the eighth time in the last 10 games. … It was the first game since Dallas-Atlanta on Feb. 1, 2020 that both teams had a 10-point lead in the first quarter…. PJ Tucker had Miami’s first five points, all in the first 51 seconds of the game. It was his 863rd career game, the first in which he had five points in the first minute. Those were his only points of the night and he left in the third quarter with a bruised left knee.
This Boston team is the sixth club in the last 25 years to have two separate games by at least 25 points in the same season in Miami. The Celtics did it on November 4th too. The other teams that made it: Milwaukee last season (won NBA title), San Antonio 2013-14 (won NBA title), Boston 2007-08 (won NBA title), Boston 2007-08 (won NBA title) Title), Toronto (2007-08) and Charlotte (2000-01).
500 AND COUNTING
The Heat announced its 500th consecutive sell-off excluding games affected by the pandemic. Only Dallas (867 and over), Portland (814 from 1977 to 1995), Boston (662 from 1980 to 1995), and Chicago (610 from 1987 to 2000) have streaks that the NBA counts as longer.
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