Jayson Tatum Scorches Miami Heat as Boston Celtics Square Series

Jason Tatum scored 27 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a tie in the NBA Finals Eastern Conference with a 127-102 victory over the Miami Heat in Game Two on Thursday.

Buoyed by the return of Marcus Smart and Al Horford, who missed Tuesday’s game 118-107 with one win, the Boston side turned as they tied the best of seven series 1-1.

Boston scored 11 of just 34 from a three-point set in Tuesday’s lopsided opener, when they were overtaken by Miami to claim a decisive win.

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But the Celtics ignored this underdog performance in an emphatic fashion, draining 20 of 40 from behind the arc to overwhelm Miami.

Tatum led the scorers but there were huge contributions throughout the Celtics lineup.

Smart finished with 24 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds, while Jaylene Brown also scored 24 points, including 12 from a three-point range.

Grant Williams added 19 from the bench, while Horford and Peyton-Pritchard scored 10 points each.

Jimmy Butler led the scoring in Miami with 29 points but only three other Heat players hit double digits.

Celtics coach Aimee Odoka said Smart and Horford’s return was crucial.

“It was great to have them back, it was such a quiet existence,” Odoka said.

“I don’t think we played as badly as the last game suggested. We won three quarters of that match but we saw a lot of positives and areas we can attack.”

Smart admitted that he found it difficult to sit up in the first game due to a foot injury.

“I felt bad that I couldn’t be there with my teammates doing battle with them,” Smart said.

“We are playing with a really good Miami team and it is a pleasure to be on the same field while going to war. It was hard to watch.”

embarrass us

Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said his team had been expecting a backlash from Boston.

“I’m sure they weren’t happy because we put 118 against them in the first game,” said Spoilstra.

“When you get to this point in the conference finals, you only have very good teams, teams without a lot of weaknesses.

“It’s a great competition. But this is just one game. We don’t like him. We just have to figure out a few things.”

Butler said he hoped the defeat would push Miami into the third game.

“They tried to embarrass us, and they really did embarrass us,” Butler said.

A runaway first quarter saw Miami come back from where it left off in Game One, with Max Strauss hitting three straight throws to leave the Heat with a 10-point lead at 18-8.

But Boston had an impressive streak of 17-0 to turn the quarter on its head, with their long-range shooting greatly improved.

Brown defeated three three-pointers in the first period to leave the Celtics with a 35-24 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Celtics’ shooting clinic continued into the second quarter, as Pritchard installed a 26-foot triple pointer to put Boston 19 points ahead at 47-28 midway through the period.

Tatum’s hat-trick and two free throws shortly thereafter left Boston 27 points in the lead at 64-37 and shortly thereafter the Celtics took a 29-point lead when Grant Williams made it 68-39.

Smart put the stamp on a devastating screen in the first half with a pull-up shot to make it 70-45 in the first half.

Miami recovered late in the third quarter and trimmed Boston’s lead to 17 points in one stage, but the Celtics regrouped and pulled away again.

A triple-pointer from Tatum took them 25 points ahead in the final seconds of the third quarter at 94-69, a lead they held last quarter.

Smart took a 30-point lead early in the fourth inning, bluffing Miami’s defense to net an impressive three-pointer drop from 26 feet as Boston finished off a brutal victory.

Game three in the series takes place in Boston on Saturday, and Smart is anticipating an intense response from Miami.

“Team one and two that they’re going to be in, it’s a tough process,” Smart said.

“We know they come to our house to try to win. We have to protect our home court.”

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