Celtics vs. Heat score: Three reasons why Miami pulled off first big upset of 2024 NBA playoffs

The Miami Heat have notched the first big upset of the 2024 NBA playoffs. The Heat hit a franchise-record 23 3-pointers to even their first-round series against the Boston Celtics at 1-1 with an impressive 111-101 Game 2 win on Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston. Miami, playing without star Jimmy Butler, was a 14.5-point underdog heading into the game, but looked like the more confident, aggressive team throughout the night.

The top-seeded Celtics cruised to a Game 1 win on Sunday and led by three points at halftime on Wednesday, but the Heat caught fire from beyond the arc in the second half. Their 23 made 3-pointers were the most in franchise history for a playoff game. Six different Miami players hit multiple 3-pointers as they shot 23-for-43 from deep. Tyler Herro led the way with six triples, a team-high 24 points and 14 assists. Caleb Martin (who was 5-for-6 from long distance) and Bam Adebayo (who did not hit a 3, but went 9-for-13 from the floor) both poured in 21 points.

The Celtics got big offensive production from their star players, but little else on offense -- seemingly by design for the Heat defense. Jaylen Brown had a game-high 33 points, Jayson Tatum added 28, and the other six Celtics who took the floor combined for 50 points. Boston won 64 games in the regular season and entered as heavy favorites both to win the series and the Eastern Conference.

The Heat, meanwhile, are looking for a first-round upset for the second year in a row. In 2023, also as a No. 8 seed, Miami knocked out the No. 1-seeded Bucks in five games.

Here are three reasons why the Heat were able to pull off the biggest upset of the 2024 playoffs so far.

1. Smoldering shooting

Variance from the 3-point line has become a nightly discussion in the NBA, and if you're going to pull off an upset of this magnitude you almost certainly need to have a hot shooting night from long distance. That's an understatement for what the Heat did on Wednesday night, launching from all angles and distances to set a franchise record for 3-pointers. And it wasn't like one player got hot -- it was basically the whole team. The only two players who shot worse than 50% from beyond the arc were Delon Wright and (ironically) long-range marksman Duncan Robinson.

PlayerSeason 3P%Game 2 vs. Celtics

Tyler Herro


6-11 (55%)

Caleb Martin


5-6 (83%)

Nikola Jovic


3-4 (75%)

Haywood Highsmith


3-5 (60%)

Jaime Jaquez Jr.


3-6 (50%)

Delon Wright


1-3 (33%)

Duncan Robinson  


2-7 (29%)  

Bam Adebayo


0-1 (0%)

Kevin Love


0-0 (N/A)

This isn't exactly Miami's M.O., either. During the regular season, they were 19th in the NBA in 3s per game with 12.5, and 12th in accuracy at 37%. Game 2's assault didn't seem too lucky, though. Miami generated tremendous looks all night, and some of the 3s they knocked down were absolutely wide open.

It may not be sustainable to shoot 54% from 3-point range, but the formula is clearly there for the Heat: Work from the outside-in. It's a strategy that has proven successful for them against the Celtics in the past, as they have now shot 50% or better from 3-point range against Boston in four playoff games over the past two seasons. No other team has more than one such game against any opponent.

2. Disciplined D

The Celtics stretch you out so much with their shooting that it's almost impossible to contain them -- there's a reason they set an NBA record for offensive efficiency this season. But for Game 2, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra clearly looked to limit Boston's 3-point attempts, even if that meant occasionally leaving defenders on an island in isolation.

The Celtics led the league with 43 3-point attempts per game this season, and they got up 49 in their Game 1 win over the Heat, making 22 of them. On Wednesday, however, Boston went just 12 for 32 from distance, as Miami forced Tatum and Brown to do a lot of one-on-one scoring, refusing to over-help off of shooters. As a result, players outside of Tatum and Brown went just 6-for-17 from beyond the arc.

Here's a good example, as the Heat are happy to live with a contested Brown fadeaway, even though it goes in. Watch now Nikola Jovic keeps one foot outside the paint, making sure he's able to recover to Kristaps Porzingis and take away any potential 3-point attempt. In fact, Miami's defenders are all within closing distance of every shooter.

Speak of Porzingis, the Heat made his life absolutely miserable on Wednesday, living in his jersey all night. The big man went 1-for-9 from the field, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range, and finished with just six points. Watch here as the much smaller Caleb Martin uses his strength to push Porzingis off his spot, while Jaime Jaquez Jr. plays cat-and-mouse between him and Jrue Holiday, eventually picking up the turnover.

Porzingis finished the game as a minus-32 in the box score, the worst by a Celtic in the postseason since Tatum in Game 2 of the 2022 Finals. Taking out Porzingis (who was plus-17 in Game 1) was clearly an area of focus for Spoelstra and the Heat on Wednesday.

The Celtics are 4-9 this season when scoring 105 pts or fewer (61-10 in all other games), and the Heat seem to think that limiting 3-point attempts is the best way to keep Boston's point total down. They executed beautifully in Game 2, but we'll see how the Celtics adjust in Miami.

3. A Herro can save us

Pardon the Nickelback reference -- actually nevermind, live life with no regrets -- but Herro didn't stand there and wait in Game 2. He said that Jimmy Butler told him to be more aggressive after a dud in the series opener, and he took his injured leader's words to heart, putting up 12 points in the first half on 4-of-6 3-point shooting.

Just as important as his scoring, however, was Herro's playmaking. Most people are aware of Butler's scoring impact, particularly in the playoffs, but may not realize that he also led the team in assists this season. That leaves a big facilitating gap, which Herro filled admirably on Wednesday night. The 6-4 guard finished with 14 assists, by far the highest total of his career, playoff or regular season.

Herro was incredibly patient, leveraging his pull-up shooting ability to draw multiple defenders, then making swift, accurate decisions with the ball.

With Butler and Terry Rozier out, Herro needs to be an elite scorer and playmaker for the Heat offense to sing. Game 2 was a great example of how producing in both those areas can lead to a Miami upset.

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Final: Heat 111, Celtics 101

(Series tied 1-1)

Miami, a 14-point underdog in Game 2, stuns Boston thanks to a franchise-record 23 3-pointers. Miami shot 54% from the 3-point line, and made only 14 2-point baskets all game. Tyler Herro led the way with 24 points and 14 assists, while Bam Adebayo and Caleb Martin scored 21 points apiece.

They also deserve credit on the defensive end, as they refused to help off of shooters and made the Celtics play one-on-one. Boston made just 12 3-pointers on the night, and six of them came from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who combined for 61 points.

The series now shifts to Miami, where the Heat will once again be playing with house money with the pressure squarely on the league's best regular-season team.

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Heat set franchise record

With 23 3-pointers (and counting?) the Miami Heat have set a new franchise playoff record for 3s in a game. In addition to their outstanding defense, that's the reason they're about to win this game and steal home-court advantage from the Celtics. What a night for the Heat, who just keep showing up in postseason underdog situtations.

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J's need some help

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have combined for 52 points, and no other Celtic has hit double-figures. Derrick White, Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis have combined for just 15 points, which isn't going to get it done for a team that relies on spreading the wealth offensively.

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End of 3rd quarter - Heat 85, Celtics 79

  • Jayson Tatum: 24 pts, 7 reb, 9-17 FG
  • Jaylen Brown: 28 pts, 6 reb, 1 blk, 1 stl
  • Tyler Herro: 18 pts, 8 ast, 4 reb
  • Caleb Martin: 18 pts, 4-5 3P
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Scorching Heat

The Heat have zero second-chance points, five fastbreak points and are getting outscored 32-12 in the paint ... and yet they lead by three early in the third quarter. That's because they've gone a ridiculous 16 for 29 from 3-point range, while holding Boston to 35% from deep. Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin and Nikola Jovic have combined to go 12 for 17 from beyond the arc. While they have to be happy about that, it makes you wonder if Boston will pull away once the shooting begins to even out. We shall see.

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Halftime - Celtics 61, Heat 58

  • Jayson Tatum: 18 pts, 3 reb, 7-12 FG
  • Jaylen Brown: 21 pts, 5 reb, 1 blk, 1 stl
  • Jaime Jaquez Jr.: 11 pts, 2-3 3P
  • Tyler Herro: 12 pts, 5 ast, 3 reb
  • Caleb Martin: 11 pts, 3-4 3P
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Jaime is the new Jimmy?

Jaime Jaquez Jr. is taking on a lot of the burden for creating offense in Game 2 with Jimmy Butler out, getting into the paint with his excellent footwork and touch to get buckets around the basket. The Heat need someone besides Tyler Herro to be able to score, and Jaquez has answered the bell.

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End of 1st quarter - Heat 28, Celtics 27

  • Jayson Tatum: 14 pts, 2 reb, 5-6 FG
  • Jaylen Brown: 6 pts, 2 reb, 1 blk
  • Jaime Jaquez Jr.: 7 pts, 2-3 3P
  • Tyler Herro: 6 pts, 3 ast, 2 reb
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Tatum comes out strong

Jayson Tatum has scored 10 of the Celtics' first 14 points, and he's done it in every way possible -- 3s, dunks, drives to the basket. As he draws more defensive attention, it will be on him to get his teammates involved and make the right passes at the right time.

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Heat at Celtics Game 2 info

We're minutes away from tip-off in Boston. Here's how to watch Game 2.

  • Date: Wednesday, April 24 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • Location: TD Garden -- Boston
  • TV channel: TNT | Live stream: TNT app
  • Odds: Celtics -14.5; O/U 204
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April 24, 2024, 10:55 PM
Apr. 24, 2024, 6:55 pm EDT