MIAMI — Game 2 was over by halftime. Maybe even a little before.
Delivering an impressive beat-down and building a 29-point lead in the first half, the Boston Celtics sailed to a 127-102 victory against the Miami Heat on Thursday, tying the Eastern Conference finals at 1-1.
At first, it looked like the Heat might be the team headed for a blowout victory. Miami built an 18-8 lead, but the game shifted when Boston went small, subbing in Grant Williams for Robert Williams. Boston finished the quarter on a 20-5 run and continued to clobber the Heat with defense and hot shooting in the second quarter.
It was Miami’s first home loss of the postseason as the Celtics snatched home-court advantage.
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Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 27 points, and Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown each had 24 points for Boston. Miami’s Jimmy Butler had a game-high 29 points.
Game 3 is Saturday in Boston (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Grant Williams effect
The Celtics trailed 18-13 when Grant Williams checked into the game. Williams stayed in for the remainder of the half, and by the time the Celtics took a 64-37 lead, they had outscored by the Heat by 32 points in Williams’ 14 minutes, 36 seconds on the court.
For the game, the Celtics were 37 points better than the Heat with Williams on the floor.
He had 19 points and four rebounds, but his impact was greater than his stat line. The Heat didn’t have many answers for a smaller lineup especially with Smart and Al Horford back on the court after missing Game 1.
Heat’s offensive problems
In a game like this, Miami’s offensive problems were not just one thing. Boston’s defense played much better and didn’t put Butler on the free-throw line as often as it did in Game 1. And Miami didn’t make shots, shooting 44.2% from the field and going 10-for-34 (29.4%) on 3-pointers.
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Early in the third quarter, Butler was the only Heat player in double-figures in points, and while his 41-point effort in Game 1 did the job, the Heat need more from others.
Miami lacked scoring alongside Butler, and that will be a key aspect of the series to follow. Tyler Herro, the Sixth Man of the Year, had 11 points but just seven in the first three quarters and was the only Heat reserve to score through three.
Max Strus and Bam Adebayo each had six points, and P.J. Tucker had five points. Gabe Vincent contributed 14 points as Miami’s starters were outscored 90-60. Twelve of Victor Oladipo’s 14 points came in a meaningless fourth quarter.
Who will bring more scoring for Miami in Game 3?
Horford, Smart back in the lineup
Horford cleared the NBA’s COVID health and safety protocols and Smart returned from a sprained right foot. Both players missed Game 1 and were in the starting lineup for Game 2.
Before the game, Celtics coach Ime Udoka said both players were “full go.”
“Obviously a benefit for us,” he said.
Smart was just 8-for-22 from the field but 5-for-12 on 3s. The Defensive Player of the Year also had 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals. He had an impact on the game, playing on an injured foot that sidelined him just two days prior. It was a quiet night for Horford (10 points, three rebounds), but as Udoka said, the Celtics benefit with him on the court.
Celtics rediscover 3-point shot
Boston shot 9-for-11 on 3-pointers in the first quarter — reminiscent of its hot 3-point shooting in the final two games against Milwaukee in the conference semifinals. The Celtics struggled with the 3-ball in Game 1.
The Celtics finished 20-for-40 on 3s, and while it wasn’t the main factor in the outcome, they outscored the Heat by 30 points from long range.
Tatum, Williams, Smart, Horford, Brown, and Payton Pritchard (10 points) all made at least two 3s.
While Tatum and Brown are the main scorers, the Celtics have multiple scoring options, which might be the determining factor in this series.
The Celtics have lost four playoff games this postseason, and each time they responded with a victory. They did it again on Thursday.
That’s not an anomaly. From Jan. 1 through the end of the regular season on April 10, the Celtics lost consecutive games just three times.
“You’re not going to win every game you play,” Tatum said. “There are really good players and really talented teams in the NBA. But I think the sign of a good team is how you respond after losses, especially tough ones. It just kind of shows the character of the group. We’ve done a really good job most of the year responding after tough losses and situations.”
White misses Game 2
Celtics guard Derrick White, who started Game 1 in place of Smart, missed Game 2 so he could be present for the birth of his child with his wife, Hannah.
“(The baby) came sooner than expected,” Udoka said. “We support our guys always in that situation. He had to rush out today.”
Quote of the night
“You do got to move on. I don’t like to move on from this because it has to hurt. They tried to embarrass us. They did embarrass us.” — Jimmy Butler.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.