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Instant analysis: The Celtics failed to come up with an answer, and the Heat leave Boston with a 2-0 lead

Jayson Tatum (34 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists) and the Heat's Jimmy Butler (27 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) caught their breath during a break in the action in Game 2.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Throughout these playoffs, and this season, for that matter, the Celtics have generally responded to adversity with force, coming up with big wins when the situation required them. But the Heat have made it clear they do not care about precedent, and on Friday night they provided another example.

No. 8-seeded Miami overcame a 21-2 Celtics run in the first half, and clawed back from an 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, eventually securing a 111-105 win that gives them a commanding 2-0 lead as the Eastern Conference finals head to Miami for Sunday’s Game 3.

Jimmy Butler had 27 points and Bam Adebayo added 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists, but was unable to close out the win in crunch time. The Celtics made just 10 of 35 3-pointers.


The Celtics took an 86-75 lead on a Robert Williams 3-point play on the first possession of the fourth quarter. But these Heat do not go away. A pair of Duncan Robinson 3-pointers sparked a comeback, and his layup with 4:36 left pulled the Heat within 98-96.

With Boston ahead, 100-96, Butler sparked a 9-0 burst with a pair of tough jumpers over Williams, and Adebayo capped it with a putback slam.

Tatum was fouled on a 3-pointer with 49.3 seconds left and may have kicked his leg out, but Miami had already used its challenge. He hit all three free throws. But Gabe Vincent answered with a 20-footer at the other end with 35.1 seconds left.

The Celtics botched a chance at a two-for-one when Tatum twice had the ball knocked away, but his free throws pulled Boston within two. Vincent was fouled and drained two free throws, and Tatum missed a pull-up 3-pointer to essentially end it.


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Observations from the game:

⋅ The Celtics started the game with a pair of unsuccessful Marcus Smart post-ups and a missed Al Horford 3-pointer. Not ideal. Horford’s 3-point struggles are really becoming damaging at this point. He made 5 of 7 shots from beyond the arc on the same day his “elite shooter” comments created headlines, but entering the third quarter on Friday he was just 5 for 30 from beyond the arc since. It seems to be in his head. He had one wide-open second-quarter look that he turned down, and it killed the possession.

⋅ Tatum had a powerful start, attacking for a layup and drilling a 3-pointer. But the Heat threw two bodies at him throughout much of the rest of the half. He took just seven more shots before the break. Still, the Celtics did a good job taking advantage of the extra attention he received, as Tatum was on the court for the entirety of a 21-2 run that produced a 40-28 lead.

⋅ Tatum played the first quarter and the first three minutes of the second, an unusually long opening stint. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla may have been trying to take advantage of Butler’s bench stint. But Tatum has to sit at some point and Boston unraveled during his brief second-quarter rest.

⋅ The first half was a struggle for Jaylen Brown, who started the game just 1 for 9 from the field. It was especially surprising considering Brown has most often been the player who gives the Celtics their early jolt before the others follow. Shooting struggles happen, but Brown didn’t do much of anything to contribute. He had one rebound, no assists, and two turnovers at halftime.


⋅ Mazzulla made the surprising decision to go with guard Payton Pritchard as his eighth man in Game 1 rather than forward Grant Williams; Pritchard had stints in each half and was not impactful. It was no surprise, though, to see Williams slide back into that role in Game 2. He provided a jolt of energy, played strong defense on Adebayo, and helped ignite the 21-2 burst. Pritchard shouldn’t play over him again in this series.

⋅ There were times in the last series when the Celtics hit the 76ers with a big punch, and Philadelphia went away. These Heat do not go away. They absorbed that 21-2 burst, on the road, in a rowdy atmosphere, and mostly shrugged and responded with their own 19-2 surge. Backup guard Caleb Martin sparked the Miami answer and went to halftime with a team-high 14 points.

⋅ Mazzulla stuck with the Game 1 starting lineup, but Butler once again had success going at switches against center Robert Williams. So in the third quarter Derrick White, a recent All-Defense selection, started in place of Williams. The switch paid quick dividends, with the guard gobbling up a Butler attempt at the rim and helping key a quick 12-2 run that put Boston back in front.


⋅ Tatum really went at his own pace throughout the game, but he was particularly effective during the third quarter. When traps arrived, he made the right pass, and when they didn’t, he punished the Heat. He had 15 points over the first 8:25 of the third.

⋅ There were some mock cheers when Mazzulla called a timeout to stop a mini 4-0 Heat run that pulled them within 69-68 in the third quarter. Mazzulla, of course, did not call a timeout during the disastrous third quarter of Game 1. This time, the Celtics regrouped, came back onto the court and outscored the Heat by seven points over the rest of the frame.

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Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.