Celtics lead wire-to-wire in Miami, roll past Heat 104-84 for 2-1 lead in East series


MIAMI — For two days, the Boston Celtics lamented getting beaten on their home floor. And when they finally got to play again, they let out all the frustration.

The result: a defensive masterpiece.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scored 22 points to lead a balanced approach, and the Celtics soundly beat the Miami Heat 104-84 on Saturday night to a take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

“We didn’t make too many adjustments,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “We played a little bit harder, we played harder and we dictated the physicality and the tempo of the game. It’s the simple things that you have to do under a high level of stress, high level of adversity. I thought our guys did a great job of dictating that tonight.”

Game 4 is Monday in Miami, where the Celtics are 9-2 in their last 11 games and 6-1 in their last seven playoff games.

Tatum added 10 rebounds and six assists for the Celtics, who led Game 3 wire-to-wire and reclaimed the home-court edge that they lost when Miami won Game 2 in Boston. Kristaps Porzingis had 18 points and Derrick White scored 16 for the Celtics.

The last time either team saw these kind of numbers — Boston on defense, Miami on offense — was Game 5 of the East finals on May 25, 2022, a 93-80 Celtics road win that helped them reach that season’s NBA Finals. The Heat had scored more than 84 points in every game since and the Celtics had allowed more than 84 in every game since.

“That’s where we’re going to win games, on the defensive end,” Tatum said.

Bam Adebayo scored 20 points for eighth-seeded Miami, which remains without starters Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier because of injuries. Nikola Jovic and Tyler Herro each scored 15 for the Heat, who got 12 from Jaime Jaquez Jr.

“They took us out of stuff we would like to get to,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They were the more physical team. They bodied us, bullied us on screens, got through stuff, distorted screens, everything. … You have to credit them for that. They were the more physical team, the team with more physicality and force on both ends of the court.”

Bounce-back efforts have been a trend for Boston this season. The Celtics — the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs — don’t lose often, and when they do, they tend to just come out and win their next one. Boston is now 15-4 in the game immediately following a loss this season, its average victory margin in those games 12.2 points.

“Just mindset,” Brown said. “We put an emphasis on defense, trying to make them uncomfortable a little bit … and I think that opened up the game.”

Boston never trailed in Game 1, a 114-94 win, and never trailed in Game 3 either on its way to beating Miami for the fifth time in six meetings this season. The Celtics led 21-12 after one, setting the tone for how nothing would come easily for the Heat.

Midway through the second quarter, it — briefly — seemed like Miami had weathered the storm. The Heat were making a bit of a run, the building had some life and Herro had a look at a 3-pointer that would have gotten the Heat within 10.

It rimmed out. The storm was not weathered. It was, in fact, just starting.

The Celtics outscored Miami 20-8 in the next 4 ½ minutes to go up 61-36 and the game was really never in doubt again It was 63-39 at the break, Boston dominant in every which way — a 19-2 edge in points off turnovers, a 26-12 scoring edge in the paint, 27-15 in rebounds, 13-6 in assists.

The lead reached 29 in the second half, Miami never getting closer than 18 after halftime.

“From the jump, they were more aggressive than us,” Jovic said. “That shouldn’t be happening.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA



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