A 70-point first-half effort got the Celtics started on a 127-102 rout of the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday in Miami.
The best-of-7 series is tied, 1-1.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 27 points, while Marcus Smart, who returned to the Celtics’ lineup after missing Game 1 with a foot injury, added 24, as did Jaylen Brown. Grant Williams had 19.
“It’s feeling great,” Smart said when asked about his foot injury in a postgame television interview, adding that any pain he felt wasn’t enough to prevent him from playing.
Game 3 is Saturday in Boston (8:30 p.m.).
“We know they’re coming, we know they’re trying to get a win, and we’ve got to protect our home court,” Smart said.
Jimmy Butler, who scored 41 in Game 1 for the Heat, delivered 29 in Game 2, but had little support as Boston pestered Miami into poor shooting and turnovers throughout the game. With five minutes left, both teams emptied their benches and there were a lot of extra names in the box score.
The Celtics fell behind early, but then used a 27-6 run to end the first quarter and take a 35-24 lead. That increased to 70-45 at halftime behind 20 points from Tatum and 15 from Jaylen Brown. The Celtics shot 58.5 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from three-point range in the first half.
The Heat stemmed the bleeding a bit in the third and matched the Celtics with 26 points each, but was unable to put a dent in the lead.
Al Horford also returned after missing Game 1 because he was in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol.
“I felt we didn’t play as poorly as the last game showed,“ Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “We saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack, and it helped to have those two guys back.”
Below are updates, commentary, and analysis as posted during the game.
Instant Analysis: This looked more like the real Celtics — 11:30 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
MIAMI — The Celtics were not alarmed after dropping Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat. They know they have become a dominant road team, and they know their setback occurred without two of their leaders.
And on Thursday they welcomed back Al Horford and Marcus Smart, and once again looked like the team that pulverized competition for much of the second half of this season, as they rolled to a 127-102 win and tied this series at 1. Game 3 will be played at TD Garden on Saturday night, and now Boston has ripped home-court advantage away from Miami.
Shaughnessy: It’s only one game — 11:21 p.m.
By Dan Shaughnessy
MIAMI — Let’s not go overboard. It’s only one game. I remember mocking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the mighty Lakers when the Larry Bird Celtics beat LA, 148-114, in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals. Those proud Lakers wound up winning that series in six games, dancing on the Garden floor while Boston wept.
But here in New England, there’ll be a temptation to get carried away after what we watched at FTX Arena Thursday night. Some of you no doubt are already dreaming of that Boston-Golden State Finals matchup.
This one feels over — 10:44 p.m.
With 9:55 left in the fourth, the Celtics lead, 103-73.
Finn: Smart has played by far the most minutes among the Celtics tonight at 36:09. Tatum is second at 31:32. Yeah, he was missed. (He’s also taken more shots, 19, and 3s, 10, than anyone.)
Yang: No Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo yet in the fourth quarter. I would be surprised if they check in at this point. Time to rest up for Game 3.
I wonder if Erik Spoelstra’s decision to give Duncan Robinson some run tonight is indicative of what’s to come. Robinson started 68 games during the regular season, and he’s obviously a capable shooter, but he’s been left out of the playoff rotation for his defensive limitations. The Heat, however, might need him to get going because their three-point shooting has not been great. If Robinson can get going, it would be worth having him on the floor, no?
Finn: I was thinking the same thing. He got four shots up in about 2 minutes after he checked in. Think Spoelstra wanted to see if he could get him going.
Udoka should give Damon Stoudemire a couple of minutes here.
A key sequence by Marcus Smart — 10:27 p.m.
With 2:24 left in the third, the Celtics lead, 86-67.
Finn: That Marcus Smart sequence felt huge, stripping Adebayo and then breaking Strus’s ankles and knocking down a jumper on the other end. Miami had some momentum, but Celtics are up 19 again.
Duncan Robinson sighting!
Yang: The crowd really wanted him to make those threes, but instead he clanked both.
It’s an interesting dilemma for head coaches: When do you wave the white flag in a playoff game? The Celtics showed in Game 5 against the Bucks that not even a 14-point lead with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter is safe, but at what point does Erik Spoelstra call it?
Obviously not now, because of the momentum Chad mentioned, but I wonder if/when Spoelstra will decide it’s time.
Finn: If they’d given them white towels before the game, maybe Spoelstra would be waving one by now.
For all of the momentum the Heat seemed to have for a moment there early in the third, they didn’t cut into the lead at all. Celtics still up 25.
Heat’s Tucker out of game — 10:24 p.m.
According to the Heat’s verified Twitter account: INJURY UPDATE: P.J. Tucker left tonight’s game with a left knee contusion and will not return.
The beating will continue — 10:12 p.m.
With 6:39 left in the third quarter, the Celtics continue to dominate Game 2 and lead 80-57.
Yang: I give the remaining fans at FTX Arena credit. They’re still chanting “de-fense” and “Let’s go Heat!” despite their team trailing by nearly 30.
Thurston: A lot of fans headed for the exit at the half and didn’t return. It’s no longer a sea of white in the seats.
Finn: Good timeout here by Udoka. Butler is putting up a fight, with 9 in the quarter, and Celtics have become a little sloppy with the ball. Don’t even allow them a hint of a comeback.
Ime is really good with the “We’re stopping this NOW” timeouts. Brad Stevens used to let them play through too often.
Celtics lead after stunning first half — 9:46 p.m.
The Celtics lead, 70-45, at halftime.
Yang: Wow. 70 points for the Celtics in the first half. This game already feels over.
Finn: Such a classic Marcus Smart first half. 2 of 11 from the field, 7 assists, plus-26.
Wonder what it takes for the Heat to give Duncan Robinson some run. A 25-point deficit, maybe?
Heat led 18-8 at 7:29 of the first quarter. Celtics outscored them 62-27 over final 19 1/2 minutes.
Quality time for Payton Pritchard — 9:38 p.m.
Payton Pritchard has eight points and the Celtics have taken a commanding lead, 64-39, with 2:51 left in the first half.
Thurston: I love the minutes that Pritchard gives the Celtics.
Finn: Marcus says, “He grabbed it with his feet” when fighting Butler for a loose ball. I feel like he knows that from having tried it himself before.
I like those Pritchard minutes too. And with Marcus back, they can hide him a little better on defense.
Yang: Give Pritchard credit, though. He’s a pretty feisty defender himself. He obviously lacks some size, but he can hold his ground.
Finn: He can. Uses that forearm well to hold guys off.
Yang: One question: Did the arena staff make a mistake? Sometimes speakers play a loud clank on a missed shot by the opposing team — only tonight, it’s happening when the Heat miss a shot? And Miami has missed plenty, shooting 16 of 41 (37.5 percent) from the field and 5 of 17 (29.4 percent) from three.
Finn: Marcus Smart is 1 for 7 from the field. The rest of the Celtics are 21 of 28. The Heat PA couldn’t clank them if they wanted to.
Yang: Confirmed – Someone made a mistake. Marcus Smart just clanked a three, and there was no extra sound to rub it in. Unfortunately for the Heat, an in-game presentation error is the least of their problems.
The Celtics mean business tonight — 9:27 p.m.
Yang: Well, the Heat are definitely going to need to channel some of that third-quarter energy from Game 1. Things are starting to get out of hand here, with the Celtics up 47-28 with 8:06 remaining in the second quarter. With Al Horford and Marcus Smart back in the lineup, Boston was going to be able to rely more on its switch-heavy defense and, as a result, Miami is having trouble generating offense.
Finn: Celtics have 13 assists on their 16 field goals. Excellent ball movement. Tatum is playing a really calm game.
Finn: I assume he’s a Globe subscriber.
Celtics lead after first quarter — 9:16 p.m.
The Celtics lead, 38-24, after the first quarter.
Yang: With 4:14 remaining in the first, Jayson Tatum went to the bench with two fouls. The Celtics proceeded to outscore the Heat, 17-6, to close out the quarter. Non-Tatum minutes are not the same as non-Giannis minutes, but it was still an impressive stretch for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown seems to be feeling it: He’s 4 of 5, including 3 of 3 from three, for 11 points.
Finn: Great quarter for Jaylen. Had a couple of nice assists in there, too. The Heat apparently can’t hear Jeff Van Gundy imploring them to make him dribble.
Coach interviews during the game are generally useless, but I like Ime’s. He always has some stat handy, and he’s blunt as usual about what’s working and what isn’t. I think the Celtics might have hired the right coach, Nicole.
Questionable call — 9:05 p.m.
Yang: Fans at FTX are pretty upset with the foul call on Tyler Herro, who appeared to make a clean block on Marcus Smart’s layup. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra elected not to use his challenge, which is smart because it’s only the first quarter, but it definitely would have been successful.
With 2:56 left in the first, the Celtics lead, 23-21.
Finn: If they hadn’t called that foul on Herro, Grant was right there for an easy putback. Stop complaining, you white-wearing, over-Botoxed doofuses.
Yang: You know what they say, basketball is a game of runs. After the Heat jumped out to an 18-8 lead, the Celtics responded with a 15-3 run to take their first lead of the game, 23-21.
Heat seize early lead — 8:52 p.m.
With 8:04 left in the first, the Celtics needed a time out as Miami raced to a 15-8 lead. P.J. Tucker has five points for the Heat, who have hit 6 of first 9 shots, and 3 of 4 from 3.
Yang: Great start for the Heat after they came out flat in Game 1. P.J. Tucker, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent have each made a three. It’s early, but if that success continues — the Heat shot under 30 percent from range against Philly — the Celtics will be in trouble.
Finn: Grant Williams should watch P.J. Tucker tape this offseason and learn every dirty trick in his book.
Yang: And he should erase the “trick” he learned from Jayson Tatum: complaining about calls.
Three burning questions — 8:43 p.m.
By Chad Finn
1. Is Marcus Smart going to be himself, or will the foot injury be a hindrance? If he’s close to his normal relentless self, I feel great about the Celtics’ chances tonight. They can score on the Heat. They proved that in Game 1. This is about the defense.
2. Can the Celtics prevent Heat role players from stepping up? Butler is going to get his, and Herro will have his moments, but the Celtics can’t give up 17 points to Gabe Vincent (career 39.6 shooter, 41.7 this season) again.
3. Do the Celtics’ inactive players come to the arena straight from the beach? Matt Ryan is dressed like he was outside making sand castles a half-hour ago.
Crowd report — 8:41 p.m.
Yang: There were no rally towels or T-shirts left on the chairs for fans at FTX Arena. Everybody’s already wearing white for the Heat’s “White Hot Playoffs” theme, so T-shirts might have been a waste, but the fans, at the very least, should get a towel to whip around.
Stat of the day — 8:33 p.m.
Yang: Since the All-Star break, the Celtics have lost back-to-back games just once: against the Raptors in Toronto on March 28 and against … the Heat in Boston on March 30. Otherwise, the Celtics have been good about bouncing back after a loss. In the playoffs this year, they have yet to drop two in a row.
Starting lineups — 8:12 p.m.
Heat: F Jimmy Butler, C-F Bam Adebayo, G-F Max Strus, F P.J. Tucker, G Gabe Vincent
Celtics: G Marcus Smart, G-F Jaylen Brown, F Jayson Tatum, C-F Al Horford, C-F Robert Williams III
Tonight’s referees — 8:05 p.m.
Via Official.NBA.com: Crew chief - David Guthrie (16); Umpire - Bill Kennedy (55); Referee - John Goble (10).
Pregame scenes — 7:13 p.m.
A few photos from the arrivals of the players:
By the numbers — 7:00 p.m.
• The 118 points the Celtics gave up vs. the Heat in the Game 1 loss were the most Boston has allowed in the 2022 playoffs. The Nets scored 114 in Game 4 and 112 in game 1 of their first-round series, but the Bucks managed only 110 in Game 5 for their highest total vs. the Celtics.
• In Game 1, the Celtics attempted 34 three-pointers and hit 11. Their highest accuracy rate came from the zone to the right of the top of the key (facing the basket), where they hit 4 of 6 for a 66.7 accuracy rate.
The Heat attempted 30 three-pointers and connected on 10, and found the same zone as the Celtics to be their most accurate location from which to shoot. Miami hit 2 of 3 from there.
Can Butler keep up the pace? — 6:45 p.m.
By The Associated Press
Heat star Jimmy Butler is averaging 29.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.3 steals in these playoffs on 53.5% shooting. Since the NBA began charting each of those statistics, nobody has finished a postseason averaging so much in each category while shooting that well. And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has a simple reason why Butler is in this space.
“Heightened attention to detail,” Spoelstra said. “But again, I don’t want to get in a long dissertation about it. If you’re driven by competition, and the stakes get raised, you’re going to raise your level of play. It’s not about trying to get bigger numbers. It’s about doing what’s required. And this level is high level, this competition, and he senses it, and he knows it. He feels it.”
Butler went 17 for 18 from the foul line in Game 1. The only player to make, or take, more free throws in a game against Boston this season was Kevin Durant — who was 18 for 20 for Brooklyn in Game 2 of the first-round series between the Celtics and Nets.
“He’s comfortable,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown said of Butler. “He’s very comfortable right now, and we’ve got to do a better job of breaking that rhythm that he’s in. That’s it. We’ve got to take the challenge.”
Gameday overview — 6:40 p.m.
Who is in and who is out? That’s been the big question hovering over the Celtics all week following Al Horford being a surprise scratch for Game 1 because of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, and Marcus Smart developing a foot issue after Game 7 vs. the Bucks.
On Thursday, Horford’s status went from doubtful to questionable to available for Game 2, which begins at 8:30 p.m.
Smart was listed as probable, which should help offset the loss of Derrick White, who has left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
After losing Game 1, Boston will try to even the series. This is the third time the Celtics have been behind in a postseason series this year – they were down 1-0 and 3-2 to the Bucks before winning Games 6 and 7.
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang. Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn. Scott Thurston can be reached at email@example.com.