Celtics reassert superiority in series with 104-84 pasting of Heat for 2-1 lead

MIAMI — The Boston Celtics offered a reminder Saturday night at Kaseya Center of why they finished the season with the NBA’s best record and entered this opening-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Miami Heat as overwhelming favorites.

While there won’t be a sweep after the Heat’s shocking Game 2 victory Wednesday night at TD Garden, there might yet be the expected four blowouts.

Saturday, there was another one, with the Celtics pushing their lead to 29 on the way to a 104-84 decision to put them up 2-1 in this best-of-seven matchup. That’s after the Celtics went up 34 last Sunday in a 20-point Game 1 victory.

Unlike Wednesday night, when the Heat sizzled with their shooting and stifled with their defense, this time the talent deficit was clear as the Heat continued to play without injured stars Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier.

After getting 24 points and 14 assists Wednesday from Tyler Herro, this time there were 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting and two assists. Otherwise, the Heat got 20 points and nine rebounds from Bam Adebayo, 15 points and eight rebounds from Nikola Jovic, and 12 points from Jaime Jaquez Jr.

The Celtics got 22 points apiece from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, 18 from Kristaps Porzingis and 16 from Derrick White.

After shooting 24 of 43 on 3-pointers in Wednesday night’s Game 2 victory, the Heat this time closed 9 of 28 from beyond the arc. After limiting Porzingis to 1-of-9 shooting in Game 2, the Heat this time saw him close 5 of 9.

Five Degrees of Heat from Saturday night’s playoff game:

— 1. Game flow: The Celtics led 21-12 after the first quarter and 63-39 at halftime.

When the Celtics pushed their lead to 25 in the second period, it was the second game they had such a lead in the series. The Celtics also had 22 such games with a lead of 25-point or more during the regular season.

Then, even when the Heat attempted to push back, a 10-2 run early in the third quarter only got them within 19.

From there, the Heat went into the fourth quarter down 87-61.

— 2. Sordid start: In being limited to 12 points in the first period, the Heat shot 5 of 21 from the field and 1 of 9 on 3-pointers.

Three starters were scoreless in the opening period, with Herro 0 for 5 from the field, Jaquez 0 for 2 and Caleb Martin not attempting a shot in the period.

The Heat all-time playoff record low for a first quarter remains 11 against the Celtics in the 2022 Eastern Conference finals.

The Heat then turned to zone at the start of the second period, with the Celtics immediately getting 3-pointers from Tatum and Sam Hauser to open the scoring in the quarter.

At one point in the second period, the Celtics had six 3-pointers to the Heat’s five total baskets.

— 3. Not Tyler time: After seizing control of Wednesday night’s Game 2, Herro this time did not score until converting a 12-foot jumper with 8:02 left in the second period, after his 0-for-5 start.

Herro did not record his first assist until a feed to Adebayo for a 10-foot jumper with 4:03 left in the third period.

Herro’s ire boiled over in the third period, when he was called for a technical foul for shoving Hauser.

— 4: Butler on bench: After remaining behind from the first two games to rehabilitate the sprained MCL in his right knee, Butler was back on the Heat bench.

The initial prognosis from the Heat about the injury sustained in the April 17 road play-in loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was that Butler would be sidelined for this opening-round series and beyond.

Asked where he stood, Butler said on a televised interview on TNT during the first quarter, “Don’t know about a timeline, but we’ve been working. I want to hoop. I want to get out here. I want some of this.”

Of his short-handed team being such a decided underdog, Butler said, “I think we believe. It’s everybody else that don’t. If I’ve got to hear one more praise about Boston on national TV when we win a game, I’m tired of hearing that, man.”

— 5. What’s next: The series continues Monday at Kaseya Center, before returning to TD Garden for Wednesday’s Game 5.

Entering this postseason, teams that win Game 3 of a 1-1 best-of-seven series go on to win the series 73.7% of the time (193-69).