Celtics blast wounded Heat, even East finals at 2-2
Jayson Tatum scored 31 points and the Boston Celtics took their turn pounding the Miami Heat early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the NBA Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
Miami missed 15 of its first 16 shots in the second straight game that was all but over after 12 minutes. The Heat led 39-18 after the first quarter of Game 3 of this bizarre series in which no game has been close down the stretch.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Miami.
The Celtics led by 27 points in the second quarter and stretched their advantage to 32 in the third. Each game in this series has featured a lead of at least 20 points.
Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 23 points. Miami’s starting five of All-Star Jimmy Butler (six points), Kyle Lowry (three points), P.J. Tucker (no points), Max Strus (no points) and Bam Adebayo (nine points) were a combined 7-for-36 shooting. They all sat out the fourth quarter.
And the Celtics stymied the Heat without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat with a sprained right ankle he suffered in the second half of Game 3.
The Heat were without Tyler Herro, who suffered a groin injury late in Game 3.
Butler was in the starting lineup after missing the second half of Game 3 with swelling in his right knee. Lowry (strained left hamstring), Strus (strained hamstring) and Tucker (left knee irritation) all tested their injuries pregame before being cleared to go.
Boston’s Williams returned after missing a game with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
Even with their banged-up roster, the Celtics enjoyed their fastest start of the series. Starting in place of Smart, White scored the game’s first seven points as Boston took an 8-0 lead.
It quickly grew to 18-1, with Miami misfiring on its first 14 shots. The Heat didn’t get their first points until Adebayo’s free throw at the 7:56 mark. Miami made its first field goal at 3:22, a 3-pointer by Oladipo, and finished the quarter 3-for-20.
The Celtics took a 29-11 lead into the second quarter and led 57-33 at the half.
Reporting by Associated Press.