MIAMI – Jason Tatum scored 27 points as the Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat 127-102 in the NBA Eastern Conference Final Series to draw two games on Thursday.
Encouraged by the return of Marcus Smart and Al Harford, who both missed Tuesday’s 118-107 game at a rate, Boston turned into a team as they squared 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Boston made just 34 of 11 from a three-point range in Tuesday’s one-way opener, while Miami claimed a decisive win by knocking them out.
But the Celtics shut down that erroneous performance in a forceful fashion, draining 20-of-40 from outside the arc to overwhelm Miami.
Tatum led the scorers but had a huge contribution across the Celtic lineup.
Smart finished with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, while Jillian Brown also posted 24 points, including 12 from the three-point range.
Grant Williams added 19 from the bench, where Harford and Payton Pritchard had 10 points.
Jimmy Butler led the Miami scoring with 29 points but only three other hit players have double figures.
A wild first quarter saw Miami where they left off in the first game on Tuesday, with Max Strauss hitting 10 points ahead 18-8 to hit a three-pointer in the back.
But Boston made a stunning 17-0 run to turn the quarter on its head, greatly improving their long-range shooting.
Brown knocked out a three-pointer trio in the first period, leaving Celtic 35-24 in the second quarter.
The Celtics shooting clinic continued into the second quarter, with Pritchard clearing Boston 19 points at 47-28 with a 26-foot three-pointer nail.
A Tatum three-pointer and two free throws soon surpassed Boston 64-37 at 27 points, and the Celtics took a 29-point lead shortly after when Grant Williams’ driving layout made it 68-39.
Smart makes the seal 70-45 at half-time with a pullup jump shot on a devastating first-half display.
Miami rallied towards the end of the third quarter and reduced Boston’s lead to 17 points at one point, but the Celtics regrouped and moved away again.
A three-pointer from Tatum cleared their 25 points at 94-69 in the final seconds of the third quarter, a lead that took them into the final quarter.
Smart led it 30-points early in the fourth, stopping a brutal win by Boston to give the Miami defense a great stepback three-pointer from 26 feet.
The three matches of the series will be held in Boston on Saturday.
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