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Celtics torch Heat early, even NBA series

The Miami Heat left Jayson Tatum lying on the court with a pain in his neck in the closing minutes of Game 3.

The Boston All-Star did his part to make sure the Heat were hurting after Game 4.

Tatum scored 31 points and the Celtics took their turn pounding Miami early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

“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 their 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 3.

Boston improved to 5-0 this postseason following a loss.

“This is a three-game series now,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.

Game 5 is Wednesday 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.

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 have 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), P.J. Tucker (zero), Max Strus (zero) and Bam Adebayo (nine) 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 Game 3.

Butler was in the starting line-up after missing the second half of Game 3 with swelling in his right knee. Lowry (hamstring), Strus (hamstring) and Tucker (knee) all tested their injuries pre-game before being cleared to go, but Tyler Herro (groin) missed.

“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 enjoyed their fastest start of the series. Starting in place of Smart, White scored the game’s first seven points as the hosts took an 8-0 lead.

It quickly grew to 18-1, with Miami misfiring on their first 14 shots.

The Celtics took a 29-11 lead into the second quarter and led 57-33 at the half.

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