NBA: Celtics bounce back, beat Heat 117-106
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The Boston Celtics hit back on Saturday, leading wire-to-wire in a 117-106 victory over the Miami Heat that cut the gap in the NBA Eastern Conference finals to two games to one.
Jaylen Brown scored 26 points and Jayson Tatum added 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Celtics, who avoided falling into an 0-3 hole from which no NBA team has rallied to win a best-of-seven playoff series.
After their 17-point lead slipped away in a game-two loss on Thursday — the second straight game they surrendered a double-digit lead in defeat — Celtics players could be heard exchanging heated words in their locker room.
But they were all on the same page on Saturday, displaying a sense of purpose in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida, and maintaining their poise as the Heat narrowed a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to five with less than a minute to play.
Marcus Smart, a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line, produced a string of clutch free throws and the Celtics hung on for the win.
“Down 0-2 in the series, we played some games we thought we should have played better,” Brown said. “We wanted to make it an emphasis to come out tonight and play 48 minutes, and we did.”
The Celtics were buoyed by the return from injury of playmaker Gordon Hayward, who played 30 minutes off the bench and scored six points with five rebounds and four assists in his first game in more than four weeks.
Center Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 27 points, 16 rebounds and three steals. Rookie Tyler Herro scored 22 points for Miami and star forward Jimmy Butler scored 17 but was not on the floor in the closing minutes.
The Celtics will try to even the series in game four on Wednesday. (AFP)