There is nothing subtle or soothing about this Heat-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals.
There is only mass destruction, the type of devastating damage that leaves you dazed and wondering “What the heck just happened?”
A third-quarter Heat tsunami in Game 1 was followed by a stunning Celtics first-half avalanche in Game 2, a 60-21 Boston burst from which the overwhelmed Heat never recovered.
This 127-102 Celtics’ beat-down of the Heat on Thursday night at FTX Arena tied the series at 1-1, with the next two games in Boston on Saturday and Monday nights, both on ABC.
“They came out and hit us in the mouth and we didn’t know how to respond,” Bam Adebayo said.
Jimmy Butler continued his exceptional postseason with 29 points on 11 for 18 shooting, with six rebounds and three assists.
But aside from 14 points from Gabe Vincent, there wasn’t nearly enough support on a night that the Heat continued its poor postseason three-point shooting (29.4 percent/10 for 34).
Miami lost for the first time in eight home playoff games, as Boston embarrassed the Heat’s highly-rated defense on one end and suffocated them defensively for stretches on the other end.
“They were disruptive and got us out of our normal rhythm and flow,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
To make matters worse, the Heat lost P.J. Tucker to a left knee contusion in the third quarter, just as Miami was rallying a bit. Yahoo Sports said he will undergo an MRI on Friday. “If you ask him, he says he’s good to go,” Spoelstra said.
Jayson Tatum scored 17 of his 27 in the second quarter, Jaylen Brown scored 24 (with eight rebounds) and Grant Williams added 19.
And the Celtics got a big lift from the return of Marcus Smart from a foot injury that sidelined him in Game 1.
The NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year disrupted the Heat’s offense, scored 11 of his 24 in the third quarter - extinguishing any thoughts of a Heat rally - and finished the night with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals. He departed one rebound short of a triple double, with 5:46 left.
Besides shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 50 percent on threes (20 for 40), Boston made its first 20 free throws.
“We damn sure didn’t guard anybody,” Butler said. “I don’t like to move on from this because it has to hurt. They tried to embarrass us. They did embarrass us.”
The Heat lost for the first time in eight postseason games without Kyle Lowry; Butler said this week that Lowry is getting close to returning from a hamstring injury. But the Heat indicated Thursday night that close isn’t the accurate portrayal and that he’s “making progress.”
The Heat actually led 18-8 early.
But then everything changed as dramatically as it did during the Heat’s 22-2 third quarter burst in Game 1.
Down by 10 less than five minutes into the game, Boston unleashed a 17-0 run, somehow managing to end the first quarter ahead by 11 points in a game that it trailed earlier by 10.
And Boston did it with Tatum missing the final 4:11 of the first quarter after picking up a second foul.
Miami closed the first quarter missing 12 of 14 shots, while Boston opened the game shooting 9 for 11 on threes.
It only got worse for Miami from there; the Heat trailed by as many as 29 in the first half and by a 70-45 margin at intermission.
Boston shot 57.5 percent in the first half, including 12 for 19 on threes, with Tatum scoring 20 and Brown 15.
The Heat entered Game 2 having outscored opponents by a league-high 93 points in the third quarter of the postseason - including a 39-14 margin in Game 1 of this series - and Miami made the game mildly interesting in the third, closing to within 17 twice.
But Smart blunted the last of those runs, stealing a ball from Bam Adebayo on one end, then hitting a short jumper on the other. Soon after, Smart hit a three to push the lead back to 24.
By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics led by 25 points (96-71), just as they had at halftime.
The margin grew to 30 soon after.
The Celtics were smoking offensively, but this was also a poor and uncharacteristic reflection of the Heat’s defense.
ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy admonished the Heat for giving Brown too much airspace. Miami didn’t close quickly enough on shooters on switches, gave Boston too many open looks and was beaten in transition.
Meanwhile, when the game was competitive, the Heat got virtually nothing from its bench beyond Herro, who scored seven of his 11 in the first half.
Dewayne Dedmon, Victor Oladipo and Caleb Martin combined for 0 for 5 shooting and a turnover in the first half.
Oladipo shot two airballs and closed 2 for 8 from the field and 9 for 10 from the line, with 14 points and three turnovers.
With the Heat down 19 and Tucker done for the night, Duncan Robinson made his first appearance of the Eastern Finals after playing just 18 minutes in six games in the second round.
Robinson scored six points but missed all four of his three-point attempts. He was active, with five rebounds and three assists in his 14 minutes.
Adebayo had another quiet night offensively, lofting just six shots in 29 minutes after attempting just four shots in Game 1.
Though Adebayo’s impact can’t be measured by his offense, ESPN’s Mark Jackson said more is needed, adding: “He’s too good to be a regular guy on the floor.”
But Van Gundy said Adebayo has “got to have more opportunities to be more assertive. There are many times he’s not getting the ball in the scoring area.”
Adebayo finished with six points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes.
The Heat, shooting just 32.2 percent on threes in these playoffs, made just 6 of 19 in the first half. For the night, Max Strus was 2 for 7 on threes, Herro 0 for 3, Oladipo 1 for 5 and Robinson 0 for 4.
The Heat now travels to Boston early afternoon on Friday, with an 8:30 p.m. tip-off on Saturday, and Miami hoping that Game 2 wasn’t a harbinger for the rest of the series.
“The Celtics,’ Van Gundy said “are bigger, more athletic when both teams are whole. The average size is overwhelming.”