When the Boston Celtics swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, they looked very good.
When the Celtics got past the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals in seven games, they looked impressive at times.
However, there have been people who somewhat dismissed the Celtics’ series win as a function of All-Star Khris Middleton being out due to a sprained MCL more than it was a function of Boston being that good.
But as the playoffs have proceeded, there has been more and more evidence that Jayson Tatum and crew are legitimate championship contenders.
The evidence has been building, and the biggest piece of evidence to date came on Thursday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Miami Heat.
The Celtics Were Dominant In Game 2
In Game 1 on Tuesday, the Celtics led 62-54 at halftime, and their defense was controlling the game and keeping Miami at bay.
The second half was a different story, as Miami went on a huge run to start the third quarter and rode that momentum to a 118-107 win.
Most figured the Celtics would bounce back in Game 2, but no one could have possibly expected them to look as dominant as they did.
They led 35-24 at the end of the first quarter, but it only got worse for Miami, as they outscored them by 14 in the second period.
At the half, Boston led 70-45, and the Heat never recovered, losing by the final score of 127-102.
Jimmy Butler had another magnificent game with 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, but the Celtics prevented anyone else from scoring more than 14 points for Miami.
One of the Heat’s biggest weapons over the last couple of years has been the 3-point shot, but they only managed to hit 29.4 percent of such attempts on Thursday.
Boston Was Impressive Offensively, Too
The Celtics are not known as a great offensive team, but they did look strong on that end of the floor as well.
They had 28 assists on 43 made field goals while shooting 51.2 percent overall and 50.0 percent (20-of-40) from beyond the arc.
That latter stat is particularly impressive, given that the Celtics were just 14th during the regular season in 3-point shooting accuracy.
Tatum had another terrific game with 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 4-of-6 from downtown, plus five assists, while Jaylen Brown added 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 4-of-7 from 3-point land.
Marcus Smart, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this season, shot just 8-of-22, but his presence was felt otherwise, as he finished making 5-of-12 shots from beyond the arc while contributing nine rebounds, 12 assists, and three steals.
Marcus Smart did everything in his return.
12 AST (1 TOV)
He was +32. No other starter was higher than +16. pic.twitter.com/G35vkm3rwi
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 20, 2022
wicked crossover ❌ pic.twitter.com/XuxWxPdR0N
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 20, 2022
Smart missed Game 1, and Boston sorely missed him on Tuesday.
It should be noted that it is just a 1-1 series, and that one Miami win in the next two contests at Boston would even the series again while giving the Heat back home-court advantage.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is arguably the best in the business, and he could easily make adjustments that will tip the series in his team’s favor.
But make no mistake: the Celtics are no fluke.