Celtics vs. Heat Score, Takeaways: Jayson Tatum, Boston Cruise in Game 2 to Reach Eastern Conference Finals


Result Celtics vs. Heat, Takeaways: Jayson Tatum, Boston even rolls into Eastern Conference Finals in Game 2

The Boston Celtics rebounded strongly Thursday night as they clinched a dominant 127-102 win over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics have now stolen home field advantage, leveling the series 1-1. Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday night in Boston.

It was all heat early on as they popped out to a double-digit lead. However, that turned out to be the highlight of the evening for them as the Celtics turned the game around, starting a 17-0 run and holding a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter. They pulled away in the second quarter to go into the break 25 points clear and the game was never in question again. Jayson Tatum led with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Jaylen Brown had 24 points and eight rebounds.

Marcus Smart, meanwhile, was returning from a foot injury that kept him out of Game 1 and had 24 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals. The Celtics had another great shooting performance, going 20-of-40 from 3-point country.

Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 29 points and six rebounds but didn’t get much help. Gabe Vincent, who finished with 14 points, was the only other starter in double digits. The Heat also lost PJ Tucker to a bruised knee and his future status is unclear.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

Smart shows a foot injury in return

The Celtics were without both Marcus Smart (foot impact) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols) in Game 1 and they were sorely missed at both ends of the parquet. The Celtics in particular could have used their lead and balance as the Heat continued their big run in the third quarter on Tuesday night.

However, both players were back in action in Game 2 and played a big role in the Celtics’ victory. Horford was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, finishing with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. However, Smart was the real difference maker. In one of his best performances this postseason, he had 21 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

His defense was phenomenal as always and his return made it that much harder for the Heat.

“As always, he sets the tone,” said Celtics head coach Ime Udoka. “Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. Ability to transition and transition to bigger bodies. Just another good defender to throw at (Jimmy) Butler and (Bam) Adebayo and some of those guys and not worry that they try to pick specific matchups he brings the physicality every night somehow he puts everyone else in line.

On the other hand, his build-up was on point as he kept reading correctly and taking a lot of the pressure off Jayson Tatum. Knocking down a team-high five with 3-pointers sure didn’t hurt, and as an exclamation mark he brought down Max Strus with a little dribbling maneuver.

The Celtics’ run in the first quarter is proving crucial

In Game 1 on Tuesday night, the Celtics were ahead from the half-time break and appeared to have a chance without picking up a win from a few key players. Instead, the Heat went on a 22-2 run for more than five minutes to turn control of the game and pulled away with a double-digit win.

The reverse scenario played out on Thursday night – albeit much earlier in the game. Miami shot the ball very well in the opening minutes and took control with an early double-digit lead. That advantage didn’t last long, the Celtics responding almost immediately with a 17-0 run to take control, building an 11-point lead at the end of the first and never falling behind again.

That 17-0 run was the Celtics’ longest of the entire postseason

C’s light it up again from the 3 dot land

The Celtics have had some great 3-point performances in the playoffs. Most notably, they knocked down 22 3s in the second round in their Game 7 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. They were right back at it on Thursday night and used another impressive shooting performance to beat the Heat in Game 2.

Of all the players, Smart led with five marks while Tatum and Brown took down four each. All told, the Celtics went 20-of-40 from downtown for their most efficient 3-point display of the playoffs. This was also their third playoff game with at least 20 3-pointers scored, the most scored by a team in a single postseason.

While shooting the ball well all night, the Celtics were particularly hot to start the game. They went 9 of 11 from behind the arc in the first quarter and scored five straight during their game-changing 17-0 run. That kind of shooting performance is nothing but demoralizing for the opposing team, and the Heat has never recovered.

Heat faces potential injury problems

Much emphasis was placed on the Celtics’ injury problems in Game 1 with both Smart and Horford unable to play. However, the Heat have their own problems in the health department. Veteran point guard Kyle Lowry is struggling with hamstring problems and has not played since Game 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.

Now the Heat may also need to keep an eye on PJ Tucker. He left Game 2 with a bruised knee and was not used in the second half. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said Tucker is adamant he will be ready for Game 3, but he will undergo further testing, including an MRI, on Friday per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Tucker, 37, is one of the toughest players in the league, so you’d probably bet he plays. Still, this is a problem for the Heat as he is one of their key defenders.

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