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HomeSportsNBA: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics Bury Miami Heat Early, Level Series 2-2

NBA: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics Bury Miami Heat Early, Level Series 2-2

Jayson Tatum knew he needed to step up on Monday night after delivering a clunker performance two nights earlier.

The Celtics forward came out firing and scored more points in the opening quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals than the entire previous contest. His impressive turnaround helped Boston dominate from the outset while notching a 102-82 victory over the visiting Miami Heat.

Tatum recorded 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists as the Celtics tied the series at two games apiece. “We came back to redeem ourselves,” Tatum said of bouncing back from a Game 3 loss. “We knew this was a game we really needed. … We were ready to play.”


On Saturday, Tatum tallied just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting and committed six turnovers. He had 12 points in the first quarter on Monday to set the tone for his third effort of at least 27 in the series. “You feel like you let your teammates down,” Tatum said of his Game 3 play. “I think I do a really good job of sleeping it off regardless if I had 10 points or 46 points. I’m a big believer that you can’t change what happened. … I didn’t doubt myself.”

Payton Pritchard scored 14 points while Derrick White excelled with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals for Boston while starting in place of injured point guard Marcus Smart. Robert Williams III added 12 points and nine rebounds and Jaylen Brown had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics.

Al Horford contributed 13 rebounds and four blocked shots to go with five points for Boston. Three reserves reached double digits for Miami. Victor Oladipo scored 23 points, Duncan Robinson tallied 14 and Caleb Martin added 12 for the Heat, who missed their first 14 shots while digging an 18-1 deficit. Miami star Jimmy Butler had just six points on 3-of-14 shooting and struggled during 27 minutes of action.

Butler departed after the first half of Game 3 on Saturday due to right knee inflammation but said the soreness wasn’t the reason for his shaky outing on Monday. “No excuse for how I played tonight,” Butler said. “It had nothing to do with my knee. I just have to be better. I will be better. I’m not too worried about it.” Bam Adebayo scored just nine points for the Heat after putting up 31 in Game 3.

Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Miami. Smart, who sprained his right ankle in Game 3, was ruled out approximately 70 minutes before tipoff. The Heat shot 33.3 percent from the field and their starters scored just 18 points on combined 7-of-36 shooting (19.4 percent). Miami, which played without reserve Tyler Herro (groin), made 14 of 36 attempts from 3-point range. “Nobody scored in double figures among their starters. We obviously set the tone right there,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.

“We have a prideful team and one of the best defensive teams in the league. We came out in the right mindset.” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra saw the game as the latest version of a series in which 20-point leads have been a component of every game. “We’re not making any excuses,” Spoelstra said. “They outplayed us tonight for sure.

Outside of these crazy runs, you have two really competitive teams.” Boston connected on 39.7 percent of its shots and was 8 of 34 from behind the arc. The Celtics owned a 60-39 rebounding edge. Boston came out strong and led by 17 before Miami made its first field goal. White scored the game’s first seven points and Tatum contributed nine during the burst. The Heat finally converted on shot No. 15 when Oladipo buried a 3-pointer with 3:22 left in the period.

Miami finished the quarter with 3-of-20 shooting and trailed 29-11. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to a great start and we couldn’t really come back from it,” Oladipo said. “It’s a seven-game series. On to the next one.” The Celtics continued to dominate in the second quarter and increased the gap to 50-23 on two free throws by Williams with 3:55 left.

Boston led 57-33 at the break behind 24 points from Tatum. The Celtics increased the lead to 32 when Horford made two free throws to make it 69-37 with 7:26 left in the third quarter. Boston led 76-52 entering the final stanza and remained comfortably ahead throughout the period.

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