Celtics 'embarrass' Heat with blowout win, tie Eastern Conference Finals

Celtics ’embarrass’ Heat with blowout win, tie Eastern Conference Finals

MIAMI — His team was down 10 in the opening minutes and Boston coach Ime Udoka made no effort to hide his level of disappointment.

His message was simple.

“Wake up,” he told his team.

Oh, they listened. And the Eastern Conference Finals are all tied up, with the series poised to move to Boston with the Celtics now holding home-court advantage.

Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown each had 24, and the Celtics rode a huge first-half run to edge the Miami Heat 127-102 Thursday night in Game 2 of the series.

“The guys are proud and looked at a golden opportunity that we kind of lost (in the first game) and we thought we could do a lot better,” Udoka said. “And we did that tonight.”

Smart was one rebound from a triple-double, having added 12 assists and nine rebounds.

Grant Williams scored 19 points for Boston, which used a 17-0 run late in the first quarter — fueled by five three-pointers in the space of six possessions — to take control. Payton Pritchard and Al Horford each had 10 for the Celtics.

“We were pretty confident,” Pritchard said.

Jimmy Butler had 29 points in 32 minutes for Miami, which fell 7-1 at home in those playoffs. Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo each scored 14 points, and Tyler Herro added 11 for the Heat.

“That only counts as one,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what the experienced players in the locker room and the staff understand. We don’t like that. They played extremely well. You have two very good teams and we understand certain things.”

The Celtics — now 4-0 in this postseason in the game immediately after a loss — made 20 three-pointers on 10 in Miami. Game 3 is Saturday in Boston.

“It’s a loss whether you lose by one or by 20,” Vincent said. “It’s regrouping, getting back to the drawing board and getting ready for Game 3.”

And the margin could have been worse: Boston led up to 34 points in fourth, putting this game on the cusp of a very good Celtics story and a very bad Heat story. The Celtics’ record for biggest playoff win is 40, the Heat’s record for biggest playoff loss is 36, and those numbers were within reach before a meaningless run at Miami in the last moments.

Boston trailed by 10 in the first quarter, then beat Miami 60-21 over the next 18 minutes — a 39-point turnover that eventually led to a 70-45 halftime lead.

The 25-point halftime lead was the Celtics’ largest in any road playoff game, surpassing a 22-point halftime advantage at Chicago in 2009.

“They came out,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said, “and hit us in the mouth.”

Brown had 11 points in the first quarter, when the Celtics went 9 for 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 the Celtics way. They learned earlier in the day that two starters — Horford (virus-related issues) and Smart (sprained midfoot) — were cleared to play in Game 2 after missing the series opener.

“I have to rest, get my health back, watch and see some things and go out and perform in this game,” Smart said.

And the good news kept coming late into the night.

Butler did everything he could to try to manufacture a comeback, scoring 16 points in the third quarter and securing the Heat in 17. But a 12-2 run late in the quarter by the Celtics restored a 27 advantage. points. The lead was 96-71 going into the fourth and the result was never close to being in question for the rest of the way.

Miami didn’t even use its starters in the fourth quarter.

“It must hurt,” Butler said. “They tried to embarrass us. They embarrassed us. … Overall, we just have to be better.”

TIPS

Celtics: Technically, Boston had another “road” game with a bigger halftime lead. The Celtics were the designated visitor on September 7, 2020 – in the Walt Disney World bubble – when they led Toronto by 27 at the break. … With Horford back, Grant Williams returned to his off-bench role. … Tatum committed his second foul with 4:14 to go in the first, after charging into Butler. The entire 17-0 run came with him on the bench.

Heat: Kyle Lowry (hamstring) has sat out for the eighth time in the last 10 games. … It was the first game since Dallas-Atlanta on Feb. 1, 2020, in which both teams had a 10-point lead in the first quarter … PJ Tucker had Miami’s first five points, all in the game’s first 51 seconds. 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.

25 TWICE

This Boston team is the sixth club in the last 25 years to have two separate games where it led Miami by at least 25 points in the same season. The Celtics also did it on November 4. Other successful teams: Milwaukee last season (won NBA title), San Antonio in 2013-14 (won NBA title), Boston in 2007-08 (won NBA title), Toronto (2007- 08) and Charlotte (2000-01).

500 AND MORE

The Heat announced its 500th consecutive sale, excluding pandemic-affected games. Only Dallas (867-plus), Portland (814 from 1977-1995), Boston (662 from 1980-1995) and Chicago (610 from 1987-2000) have streaks the NBA considers to be longer.

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