The Miami Heat left Jayson Tatum lying on the court with a pain in his neck in the closing minutes of game three.
The Celtics All-Star did his part to make sure the Heat were hurting after game four.
Tatum scored 31 points and Boston took its turn pounding Miami early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.
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“Obviously, we knew how important this game was,” Tatum said. “Everybody just had to come up with a different sense of urgency.”
Miami missed 15 of its first 16 shots as this bizarre series produced another game that was all but over after 12 minutes. The Heat led 39-18 after the first quarter of game three.
The stats painted a story so bad for the Heat, several grim records were broken.
With Miami not making a single field goal until 3:22 left in the first quarter, it was the longest drought without a field goal to start a playoff game over the last 25 years.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Miami’s starters combined for 18 points, the fewest amount of points from any starting five since that particular stat was first tracked in 1917.
Boston improved to 5-0 this postseason following a loss. Coach Ime Udoka said the challenge is finding more consistency.
“Just got to muster that same energy when we came off a win as well as a loss,” Udoka said. “This is a three-game series now. Can’t always just flip the mindset when we come off a loss and get a little desperate.”
Game five is Thursday in Miami.
Payton Pritchard had 14 points for the Celtics. Derrick White added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Robert Williams finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“We just wanted to up the all-around effort,” Williams said.
The Celtics led by 27 points in the second quarter and stretched their advantage to 32 in the third. Each game in this series has featured a lead of at least 20 points, and none has been close down the stretch.
Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 23 points. Miami’s starting five of All-Star Jimmy Butler (six points), Kyle Lowry (three points), PJ Tucker (no points), Max Strus (no points) and Bam Adebayo (nine points) were a combined seven of 36 shooting. They all sat out the fourth quarter.
“They came out and jumped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight for sure. We never could get any kind of grip on the game.”
And the Celtics stymied the Heat without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat with a sprained right ankle he suffered in the second half of game three.
The Heat were without Tyler Herro, who suffered a snout injury late in game three.
Butler was in the starting lineup after missing the second half of game three with swelling in his right knee. Lowry (strained left hamstring), Strus (strained hamstring) and Tucker (left knee irritation) all tested their injuries pregame before being cleared to go.
“It’s a part of playoffs. You learn to adapt,” Adebayo said. “Guys being out, guys playing half, guys playing 20 minutes in the game, just depends. You’ve just got to find a way to win.”
Boston’s Williams returned after missing a game with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
Even with their banged-up roster, the Celtics enjoyed their fastest start of the series. Starting in place of Smart, White scored the game’s first seven points as Boston took an 8-0 lead.
It quickly grew to 18-1, with Miami misfiring on its first 14 shots. The Heat didn’t get their first points until Adebayo’s free throw at the 7:56 mark. Miami made its first field goal at 3:22, a three-pointer by Oladipo, and finished the quarter three for 20.
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