Jayson Tatum scored 31 points and the Boston Celtics pounded the Miami Heat early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
Miami missed 15 of their first 16 shots within the second straight game that was all but over after 12 minutes. The Heat led 39-18 after the primary quarter of Game 3 of this bizarre series by which no game has been close down the stretch.
Payton Pritchard had 14 points for the Celtics. Derrick White added 13 points, eight rebounds and 6 assists, and Robert Williams finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Celtics led by 27 points within the second quarter and stretched their advantage to 32 within the third. Each game on this series has featured a lead of at the very 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), PJ Tucker (0 points), Max Strus (0 points) and Bam Adebayo (nine points) were a combined 7 of 36 shooting. All of them sat out the fourth quarter. And the Celtics stymied the Heat without Defensive Player of the 12 months Marcus Smart, who sat with a sprained right ankle he suffered within the second half of Game 3.
The Heat were without Tyler Herro, who suffered a groin injury late in Game 3. Butler was within 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.
Even with their banged-up roster, the Celtics enjoyed their fastest start of the series. Starting rather than Smart, White scored the sport’s first seven points as Boston took an 8-0 lead. It quickly grew to 18-1, with Miami misfiring on their first 14 shots. The Heat didn’t get their first points until Adebayo’s free throw on the 7:56 mark. Miami made their first field goal at 3:22, a three-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 on the half.
Game 5 is on Wednesday in Miami.