With the Eastern Conference Finals back in Boston for the first time in four years, the Miami Heat quickly jumped on the Celtics, quieted the TD Garden crowd, and built a 26-point lead by the second quarter. While the Green made an incredible run late, it wouldn’t be enough as the Heat pulled out a 109-103 win to take a 2-1 series lead.
Bam Adebayo had a huge night with 31 points – none bigger than a clutch bucket with the shot clock winding down and just over a minute left that pushed the Miami lead back up to six. The big man pulled down 10 rebounds, handed out six assists and grabbed four steals in the win.
Boston was led by Jaylen Brown with 40 points. The Cal product nearly willed the Celtics all the way back, cutting the Miami lead to a single point late in the fourth quarter. But the Green were plagued by turnovers (23) and missed free throws (seven) and ran out of gas trying to make up for their mistakes.
Al Horford had 20 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in the loss.
The Celtics had some pep in their step to start the second half, scoring the first basket as the Heat played on without Jimmy Butler, who was removed from the game with right knee inflammation. But Marcus Smart’s ankle was crushed under a flailing Kyle Lowry on a rebound attempt and he, too, headed to the locker room.
Smart returned to a loud ovation several minutes later and nailed a three, but the Celtics continued to turn the ball over even as Miami’s shooting cooled. An Al Horford three got the deficit back to single digits, but the visitors exited the third with the same lead they had at the half: 15 points.
The Heat once again established a double-digit lead in the opening quarter, exiting the first with an incredible 36-18 advantage. The winners made 64 percent of their field goal attempts and dominated in all facets, while the Celtics finished the first 12 minutes shooting just 28 percent.
The TD Garden crowd was booing two minutes into the second quarter when the lead hit 26 points – the largest deficit the Celtics have faced since December. Tatum hit his first basket shortly thereafter, but the lead stayed fat until a 10-0 Boston run at the close of the second quarter got the lead down to 15.
Tatum finished with 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting. He briefly left the game in the fourth following a collision.
Kyle Lowry returned for Miami after missing time with a hamstring injury going back to the previous round. He played 29 minutes.
Rob Williams sat for Boston with soreness in his left knee.
Game 4 is Monday night at TD Garden. Tipoff is 8:30 p.m. with pregame coverage starting at 8:00 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.