NBA: Heat barrage stuns Celtics, Thunder thrash Pelicans

AFP , Thursday 25 Apr 2024

The Miami Heat unleashed a barrage of three-pointers to score a series-leveling 111-101 upset over the top-seeded Boston Celtics in their NBA Eastern Conference playoff duel on Wednesday.

Miami Heat
Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) is congratulated by teammates after the Heat's win over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, April 24, 2024, in Boston. Photo: AP


Eighth seeds Miami, playing without the injured Jimmy Butler, produced a battling performance to knot the best-of-seven-series at 1-1 as the teams head back to Florida for game three on Saturday.

Tyler Herro led the Miami scoring with 24 points, part of a balanced offensive effort that saw all five Heat starters post double-digit points.

But the key to the Miami victory was their accuracy from long-range, with the Heat draining 23 three-pointers from 43 attempts compared to Boston's 12 of 32.

Herro knocked down six threes while Caleb Martin added five in his tally of 21 points.

Bam Adebayo also finished with 21 points while Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 14 and Nikola Jovic 11.

Boston, meanwhile, was led by 33 points from Jaylen Brown, with Jayson Tatum finishing with 28 in a losing effort.

The win was all the more unexpected given Miami's 20-point drubbing by Boston in game one on Sunday -- something Herro said had motivated the Heat for game two.

"We lost badly in game one and everybody responded tonight, and that's all you can ask for from a group of guys," Herro said afterwards.

Herro revealed that he had been encouraged by Butler to take on a leadership role in the absence of the injured Miami talisman.

"Just before this series, JB texted me to take the team and you know lead these guys, just make every right play," Herro said.

"It's not all about scoring, (in) the playoffs you gotta make the right play. Our guys showed up tonight -- Caleb Martin, Nikola, Jaime."

It was another trademark display of defiance from Miami, who are aiming to emulate their playoff run of last season when they reached the NBA Finals after entering the postseason via the play-in tournament.

"We don't even want to mention last year, this year is a whole new year," Herro said.

"We feel like we have a great group of guys. We're not fully healthy, but we have guys who want to play and want to be out here making a difference."

Thunder rout Pelicans

Boston star Tatum meanwhile said the Celtics had expected a backlash after their comfortable game one victory.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Tatum said. "There's a lot of history between these two franchises, especially recently.

"Regardless of seeding or who's in or who's out -- it's the playoffs... we've got a chance to play another one on Saturday -- should be a fun one."

While the Eastern Conference top seeds were left licking their wounds, there were no such problems for Boston's Western Conference counterparts Oklahoma City.

The No.1 ranked Thunder took a commanding 2-0 lead in their first-round series against the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans with an emphatic 124-92 thrashing.

The Thunder took the lead early in the first quarter and were in complete control throughout, holding a double-digit advantage from the second quarter onwards which reached 34 points at one stage late in the fourth quarter.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the scoring for Oklahoma City, finishing with 33 points from 13-of-19 shooting from the field.

Chet Holmgren added 26 points while Jalen Williams chipped in with 21. Luguentz Dort added 15 points including four three-pointers.

The result was in stark contrast to game one, which went down to the wire before Oklahoma City prevailed 94-92 on Sunday.

"Within a seven-game series, we've just got to take it day by day and try to get better every day," Gilgeous-Alexander said afterwards.

"And I think that's what we did tonight. We definitely had a better performance than we did in game one and that's our goal. So, we'll take it."

The series now heads to game three in New Orleans on Saturday.

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