Jayson Tatum Triple-Double, 3S Lead Celtics Past Butler-Less Heat 114-94 In Playoff Opener

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives past Miami Heat forward Nikola Jovic (5) in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives past Miami Heat forward Nikola Jovic (5) in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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BOSTON (AP) — The Celtics spent the days leading up to their playoff matchup with Miami talking about wanting to match the physicality of a team that would be looking for an edge without star Jimmy Butler.

Boston did that and then some.

Jayson Tatum notched his first career playoff triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Boston past the Miami Heat 114-94 on Sunday to open their first-round playoff series.

Derrick White added 20 points and four assists for Boston, which finished with six players in double-figures. The Celtics’ lead grew as high as 34 points in the fourth quarter. Miami used a late run to get as close as 14, but Boston closed it out.

“It’s supposed to be tough. In the playoffs no game is easy," Tatum said. "There’s no guaranteed wins regardless of time and score, how much time is left. ... We just had to respond and we did that.”

Miami spoiled the Celtics’ NBA finals dreams last season, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the conference finals and then blowing them out in Boston in Game 7.

But Boston fed off the energy of the TD Garden crowd on Sunday, tying a franchise playoff record with 22 3-pointers and outscoring the Heat 31-14 in the third quarter.

“There was a four or five-minute stretch when we didn't handle it well, but I think the other 42-43 minutes — that's the recipe," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.

Including the regular season, Boston is 38-4 at home and has won its past four meetings with the Heat.

Bam Adebayo scored 24 points for the Miami, which played for the second straight game without star Butler following his right knee injury during the play-in round. Terry Rozier also remained out with a neck injury. Delon Wright added 17 points and tied a career-high with five 3s. Jaime Jaquez Jr. finished with 16 points. Tyler Herro had 11 points, but shot just 4 of 13 from the field, including 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

“Applying pressure and making things difficult, not really allowing me to get comfortable really from the beginning,” Herro said. “It's one game. We're going to leave it behind us and keep it moving.”

Game 2 is Wednesday in Boston.

Tempers flared in the final minute when Caleb Martin undercut Tatum on a rebound attempt and sent him crashing hard to floor. Brown got in Martin’s face afterward, leading to a brief scrum and double technical fouls on Brown and Martin.

“It’s a physical game playing against a physical team. (Stuff is) going to happen," Tatum said. "It’s probably not the last time I’m gong to get hit like that, or fouled in this series. I wasn’t hurt to get hit like that. Just get up. ... Just go down there and knock the free throws down.”

Miami was pushed around for most of the game, notably limited to just five offensive rebounds.

That set tone, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“Boston controlled this game from the tip,” he said. “They won the big muscle areas. Definitely won the 3-point line and the majority of the areas in between.”

Boston didn’t have reserve big man Luke Kornet after he strained his right calf in practice on Saturday. But the Celtics’ bench stepped up without him, contributing 30 points.

Sunday’s game had a completely different feel without Butler, whose postseason heroics keyed Miami’s run from play-in qualifier to the NBA finals a year ago.

Boston beat the Heat in all three regular-season meetings this season, including a 33-point drubbing in Miami.

Sunday’s game resembled that one, with the Celtics jumping on the Heat from the opening tap.

On the first possession of the game Tatum was stripped at the last second on a dunk attempt but corralled the loose ball and found Brown for a 3-pointer.

After a Miami miss, Brown followed that up with a drive and spin move past Jaquez Jr. for a two-handed dunk.

It was part of a 17-2 run by the Celtics over the first three-plus minutes. Miami started by missing its first four shots before Adebayo’s short jumper finally got the Heat on the scoreboard.


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