The Boston Celtics reined in the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals to cut the deficit to 2-1 and breathe life into their challenge.
Jaylen Brown scored 26 points, Jayson Tatum added 25 as the Celtics got right back into the East finals with a 117-106 victory over the Miami Heat in the early hours of Sunday.
Kemba Walker added 21 to help Boston pull to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and Marcus Smart scored 20 points for Boston, going 9 for 9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics — who also got 14 rebounds and eight assists from Tatum — outscored Miami 60-36 inside the paint, led by as many as 20 and never trailed.
Bam Adebayo had 27 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat, who fell for just the second time in 12 games in these playoffs. Tyler Herro scored 22 points, Jimmy Butler had 17 and Duncan Robinson 13.
The Heat rallied from 14 points down to win Game 1 in overtime, 17 points down to win Game 2, but never caught up Saturday — though they put together a late run to make matters interesting.
They got within eight on a 3-pointer by Robinson with 1:12 left, setting the tone for the Celtics to scramble at the end. Brown committed a flagrant foul nine seconds later, and Robinson made one of two free throws to cut Boston’s lead to 109-102.
Adebayo scored on the ensuing possession to get Miami within five and cap a 24-9 run, but the Heat got no closer.
Herro had 16 points in the second quarter alone to keep Miami close, the last of those 16 coming on a 3-pointer with 3:22 left before halftime to cut Boston’s lead to 51-48.
That’s when the Celtics started to run away.
Boston got three consecutive fast-break scores in a span of 48 seconds to push its lead back to 10, and after a late 3-pointer by Walker it was 63-50 at the break.
And when Miami tried another comeback in the third, Boston again had a late-in-the-quarter answer.
The Heat went on an 11-1 run to get to 82-73 on a layup by Herro with 1:08 left in the third, and Boston answered with the next seven points — needing just 32.9 seconds to get them.
Goran Dragic had 11 for Miami and Jae Crowder finished with 10. The Heat were 12 for 44 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t play hard enough,” Butler said. “I think we didn’t do anything that we said that we were going to do.”