Celtics dominate Heat and even Eastern Conference finals in Game 2

Smart had 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds after missing Game 1 with a sprained foot. Jayson Tatum had 27 points. Horford had a surprising return after entering the COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday afternoon, scoring 10 points. Derrick White missed the game to attend the birth of his child.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 29 points, but he didn’t help. Heat forward PJ Tucker left the game with a knee contusion in the third quarter and did not return.

The Celtics trailed 18-8 in the first quarter, but then ended the quarter with a 27-6 run and never trailed by double digits.

Game observation:

▪ The Celtics lead with 32 points with just over six minutes left before they start replacing all starters. This doesn’t seem like the smartest way. To make matters worse, Smart, who had just recovered from a quadriceps contusion and a sprained foot, was with the group.

▪ Butler blasted the Celtics to 41 points in Game 1, but life was a little different when a Defensive Player of the Year returned and got the assignment. Smart was one of the few players able to counter Butler’s tough physicality, and he had a solid first quarter. With Horford and Smart both back on the floor, the Heat’s offense wasn’t dislocated in switching. Butler made 18 free throws in Game 1, but only got three in the first half of Game 2.

▪ Smart looks like a player back on the court after missing what was supposed to be one of the biggest games of his career. He was an early part of everything the Celtics did on both ends of the floor. Although he missed his first four shots, he was a net positive from defending Butler to opening up and dishing out four assists. Smart also added a 3-pointer. Smart has taken a hit in these playoffs, so the rest may be good for him in general.

▪ Max Strus’ 3-pointer gave the Heat an 18-8 lead, continuing the momentum they started in Game 1. But that didn’t last long. According to NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics beat the Heat with a string of 3-pointers that combined six players to make nine goals, the most in the first quarter in franchise history. When a team rolls like this, the confidence that comes from low-pressure shots is palpable. The ball movement is also good.

▪ The most impressive part of Boston’s climax of the first quarter (which eventually expanded to 27-6) was Jayson Tatum sitting on the bench after his second offensive foul. The Celtics led the Heat by 14 points and Tatum sat in for the rest of the quarter, a huge win.

▪ Speaking of Tatum, six minutes passed before his shot. Then he quickly went to the bench. But he joined the chat strong in the second quarter, when he exploded for 17 points in his trademark fashion, mixing tough 3-pointers and balancing moves to the rim. His six turnovers in the third quarter of Game 1 quickly disappeared.

▪ In the second quarter, Payton Pritchard, 6-foot-1, danced in the paint and hit a hard-hitting 6-5 Tyler Herro Mid-range shot. Then, as Pritchard ran back off the court, he lowered his hands and made the usual “he’s too small” basketball disrespectful gesture. Ouch. Later, Grant Williams did the same to Tucker, who, to be honest, probably wasn’t the right person.

▪ Smart was the only Celtics player to shoot under 67 percent in the first half, helping Boston to a 70-45 lead. Here’s everything you need to know. The Celtics made 12 of 19 3-pointers in the first half to end the game 62-27 after trailing by 10 points.

▪ The Heat closed by 29 late in the third quarter to within 17 and then had a chance to go further. But Smart has actually been a calming influencer this season, pulling up a steal before sitting down with a nasty stepback before the jumper. The Heat were never threatened again.

▪ New Hampshire’s Duncan Robinson is obviously a liability on the defensive end, but if the Heat’s 3-point shooting is still around in this series, it may need him. Robinson hit 20 3-pointers in six games in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals between those teams. He signed late in the third quarter and the Heat trailed by 19 points. The game was drawing to a close, but it felt like Heat coach Eric Spoelstra was trying to give him some confidence to see if Robinson would have a place in this series. But he hit three three-pointers in a row.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com.follow him on twitter @adamhimmelsbach.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: