Skip to main content

The Celtics bounced back from Tuesday's disappointing loss, one where a Heat haymaker in the third quarter offset Miami getting outscored in three out of four frames.

Thursday, they got a morale boost in the form of Al Horford (health and safety protocols) and Marcus Smart (right mid-foot sprain) returning after missing the series opener. Then, Boston steamrolled the Heat, tying the series as it comes to the TD Garden.

Now, for a deep dive into the Celtics' 127-102 win.

Celtics Go on a 17-0 Run in the First Quarter

P.J. Tucker opened the scoring with a right-corner three after Gabe Vincent drove and drew the attention of multiple defenders. Tucker then hit a push shot to make it 5-0.

But the following five points belonged to Boston as Smart drove and kicked the ball from the right baseline to Jaylen Brown for a three from the left wing. Smart then got into the paint and connected with Robert Williams on an alley-oop.

After the Heat got a Jimmy Butler second-chance bucket at the basket, then a Vincent three after a Celtics turnover, Al Horford took a Jayson Tatum pass and drilled a three in the right corner.

But Miami threw the next punch as Butler hit a 14-foot pull-up jumper, then found Max Strus, who swished a three from 28 feet. That made it 15-8 Heat, prompting Ime Udoka to take a timeout.

Nearly four minutes into the game, the Celtics have a turnover that led to a Vincent three, and didn't box out Butler, resulting in him getting a put-back at the rim. Both teams are shooting well to start, but the Heat have taken three more shots. That's the difference.

With the score 18-8, Brown created an open mid-range jumper off the dribble that he swished to bring Boston within eight in the early going.

At the 6:23 mark, Tatum knocked down a three from the right wing on his first field-goal attempt, making it 18-13. Two possessions later, Tatum found Grant Williams for a layup off a back cut, bringing the Celtics within three.

With 4:00 remaining, Tyler Herro drilled a jumper while getting fouled, but he couldn't make the ensuing free throw. Brown countered with another three from the left wing, this time from 27 feet. That brought Boston back within three, 21-18.

Smart then picked off a bad pass from Herro, and while the latter made a terrific effort to swat his layup attempt at the other end, Herro got whistled for a foul, bumping Boston's floor general in the back of the head with his chest as he contested the layup. Smart capitalized on both free throws to make it a one-point game.

Pritchard didn't have to wait long to get on the board, doing so on the Celtics' ensuing possession, burying a three from the left wing after a dish from Brown. That put the visitors on top 23-21, causing Erik Spoelstra to halt the action.

After the break, another Heat turnover translated to a three for Smart at the other end, benefitting from effective ball movement, working it from side-to-side. That gave Boston a 26-21 advantage with 2:14 left.

Grant Williams extended the Celtics' lead after Brown made light work of a double team, swinging it to the open Williams for a three from the right wing. Williams drilled a three from the left corner on Boston's following possession, representing a 17-0 run that gave the Celtics a 32-21 lead.

Butler ended the Heat's scoring drought with a three from above the break. But Brown answered, knocking down his third triple from the left wing, pushing Boston's advantage to 35-24.

That's where the score stood entering the second quarter. The Celtics' 17-0 run was the product of effective ball movement, leading to ten assists on 12 field goals and shooting 9/11 from beyond the arc.

They also did a much better job holding Miami to one shot per possession after giving up five offensive rebounds in the early portion of the frame.

Celtics Earn Their Largest Halftime Lead on the Road in a Playoff Game in Franchise History

Tatum buried a three from the right to start the second quarter. Herro then fought his way to a layup at the other end. That made it 38-26 visitors.

With Boston ahead by ten, Smart got into the paint and found Tatum on a back cut, resulting in a layup that gave the Celtics a 40-28 lead. Tatum then got another one after Robert Williams intercepted a poor pass from Strus. Tatum's layup put Boston ahead 42-28.

With the score 44-28, Tatum took advantage of a miscommunication between Tucker and Herro when they abandoned Pritchard after he screened for Tatum, leading to him cashing on an open three.

At the 6:54 mark, Pritchard delivered a cross-court pass to Smart, who pump faked and stepped into a pull-up jumper from mid-range. The shot didn't go down, but Robert Williams elevated for the rebound and converted on the put back while getting fouled. He then turned it into an old-fashion three-point play to give the Celtics a 50-31 advantage.

Bam Adebayo got a put-back dunk at the other end, but Pritchard responded with a mid-range jumper, and off a Herro miss from 29 feet, Pritchard delivered an outlet pass to Tatum, and he delivered a thunderous one-handed jam to make it 54-33.

With 3:30 remaining, sandwiched between a Vincent jumper from 19 feet, was Tatum dancing with Tucker off the dribble, then drilling a jumper as he got fouled. 

He made the free throw, then splashed a three from 27 feet the next time down the floor. That gave him 15 points in the quarter, and put Boston ahead 62-37.

With 27.2 seconds left, after Smart and Tatum couldn't capitalize on opportunities from in close, Butler leaked out for a bucket at the basket, plus a foul. He tacked on the free throw to make it 68-45.

But Smart countered, beating the shot-clock buzzer with a pull-up mid-range jumper. That gave the Celtics a 70-45 lead entering halftime. According to ESPN's Mike Breen, that's their largest halftime advantage on the road in the playoffs in franchise history.

After two quarters, they were shooting 58.5 percent from the field, including 12/19 (63.2 percent) from beyond the arc. And they earned ten points on ten free throws. That was a product of excellent ball movement as Boston assisted on 16/24 field goals. Tatum allowed the game to come to him, and he and Brown turned Miami's double teams into open shots for their teammates.

Tatum registered a game-high 20 points, pairing it with three assists. Brown had 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and like Tatum, he also distributed three assists. Smart scored seven points, dished out seven assists, translating to 18 points, and had five boards.

Boston also got 12 points from Williams and eight from Pritchard, the only members of its second unit to get in the game to that point.

As for the Heat, Butler had 13 points, Vincent scored eight, and Herro had seven. But the hosts were struggling to find an area to exploit in the top-ranked defense. Miami shot 40.9 percent from the field, including 6/19 (31.6 percent) from beyond the arc.

The Celtics also turned eight Heat turnovers into 16 points and scored eight on the fast break.

Miami Makes a Run, but Boston Weathers the Storm

Brown sparked the second-half scoring, knocking down a mid-range jumper off the dribble. That made it 72-45 Boston.

At the 9:28 mark, Smart launched a baseline jumper over Adebayo, throwing it over the side of the backboard and watching it swish through the net. He then capitalized on the free throw to give the Celtics a 75-48 advantage.

A Robert Williams rejection of a Vincent step-back jumper then led to Smart finding Horford for two points that extended Boston's lead to 77-48.

After that, Vincent drilled a three, and Butler buried a 16-foot jumper to make it 77-53. But Smart responded with a three from the left wing off a dish from Tatum, pushing the lead to 80-53.

The following two buckets belonged to Butler. First, he backed down Grant Williams before hitting a turnaround fadeaway jumper over him. Then, he got a layup in transition to make it 80-57, resulting in coach Udoka taking a timeout.

At the 5:54 mark, Butler put back his initial miss, cutting the deficit to 82-59. Vincent then pump-faked Brown and drilled a side-step three from above the break. That made it 82-62.

With the Celtics continuing to miss shots around the basket and not moving the ball as effectively, Butler attacked Brown off the dribble for two points at the rim, plus the foul, the fourth on Brown. Butler then made the free throw to bring the Heat within 17, 82-65. It also gave him 14 points in the quarter and a game-high 27.

At the 3:28 mark, ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters announced Tucker was out the rest of the game due to a left-knee contusion.

But Butler kept coming, earning two more points in the paint to make it 84-67 with 3:08 remaining. Smart then lowered his shoulders like he was about to charge downhill before dribbling between his legs and pulling the ball back, causing Strus to tumble to the floor. That left Smart open for a jumper he capitalized on to make it 86-67.

After a Miami timeout at the 2:24 mark, Spoelstra brought Duncan Robinson in for the first time in the series. 

With 1:38 left, Tatum delivered a cross-court pass to Smart, again beating a double team with his passing. Smart knocked down an open three at the left wing, extending Boston's lead to 91-67.

Robinson scored on a finger roll with 50.6 seconds remaining, but Tatum then swished a three from above the break to make it 94-69 with under 35 seconds to play in the period.

Victor Oladipo and Grant Williams then traded free throws, bringing the score to 96-71, entering the final frame. The Celtics have to be pleased about weathering a Heat run to take a 25-point advantage into the fourth quarter.

Celtics Handle Business, Able to Empty the Bench Midway Through the Fourth Frame

Dedmon opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a jump hook near the basket, but Brown countered, taking advantage of no resistance by Miami, avoiding Dedmon's attempt to draw a charge and laying the ball in to make it 98-73.

Nearly a minute later, Brown got another layup, and Smart drilled a three from the right wing on Boston's following possession, giving the visitors a 103-73 lead with 9:55 to play.

At the 8:40 mark, after converting on a foul-line jumper the previous Celtics possession, Horford knocked down a three from above the break to give his team a 108-77 advantage, their largest lead of the game.

It seemed Boston's starters and top rotation players no longer needed to be in, but with 7:15 to go, Smart sank a three from 28 feet to make it 112-81.

With 6:46 left, Brown followed up a pair of free throws by Oladipo with a three that extended the Celtics' lead to 115-83.

At the 6:18 mark, coach Udoka began emptying his bench. And shortly after a Grant Williams layup made it 119-85, Boston took a timeout to finish subbing its top rotation players.

When the final buzzer blew, the Celtics registered a 127-102 win, dominating the Heat in Game 2. Miami made a run in the third quarter, but Boston responded far more favorably than when that happened in the series opener.

Tatum produced a team-high 27 points, consistently beat double teams with his passing, distributing five assists, and grabbed five rebounds.

Brown scored 24 points, pairing it with eight boards and three assists. Smart also registered 24 points, also generating a game-high 12 assists compared to only one turnover. Smart also had nine rebounds and three steals.

Coach Udoka stuck with a seven-player rotation until going deeper into his bench in the fourth quarter. The two members of the second unit he relied on, Williams and Pritchard, shined in their roles Thursday. The former scored 19 points and corraled four rebounds. The latter chipped in ten points.

The Celtics shot 51.2 percent from the field, including 20/40 from beyond the arc. They also earned 21 points on 23 free throws. As stated throughout this article, their ball movement was terrific. They finished with 28 assists. Boston consistently created quality shots, handling double teams and the Heat's zone defense with poise.

The Celtics also turned the ball over just ten times, limiting Miami to nine points off turnovers and eight on the fast break. Conversely, Boston produced 20 points off 15 Miami mistakes and scored 12 on fast-break opportunities.

While Butler generated a game-high 29 points and the Heat scored 42 in the paint, with Smart and Horford back in the lineup, they never found a player they could target or a consistent source of offense.

As stinging as Game 1's defeat was for the Celtics, they accomplished their goal of splitting the first two matchups in South Beach, sending the series to Boston tied 1-1.

Up Next

Game 3 of this Eastern Conference Finals series between the Celtics and Heat is Saturday night at 8:30 ET. Inside The Celtics will have content related to the game coming out before, during, and after. And follow @BobbyKrivitsky on Twitter for updates and analysis from pregame to post.

Further Reading

For the Celtics to Avoid Going Down 0-2, Here's What they Have to Address

Celtics Quickly Turning the Page to Pivotal Game 2: 'We've just got to come together, correct the mistakes, and be ready to fight'

Jayson Tatum, Celtics Discuss Heat Outscoring Them 39-14 in Third Quarter: 'I've got to lead better, I've got to play better in those moments, and I'm just looking forward to responding'

What Stood Out from Celtics' Loss in Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals: Heat Seize Control with Third-Quarter Haymaker

A More Mature Celtics Team Ready for Familiar Challenges from Heat in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals Rematch