But then they flipped a switch.
Boston went on to outscore the Bucks 43-28 in the fourth quarter, taking down the Bucks 116-108 and tying up the series at two games apiece. Their offense exploded in the final quarter, and they looked like a completely different team than the one that hobbled its way through the first three periods.
After the game, head coach Ime Udoka explained the team’s thought process heading into the final frame, saying that they just wanted to ‘have one solid quarter’:
We said, ‘let’s have one solid quarter. We’re down seven, we got a whole game here to play, and let’s really start to attack and get multiple penetrations.’ And I think we did that more so in the fourth quarter than throughout the first three.
The Celtics accomplished that goal and then some. Not only did they score 43 points, but they did so on insanely efficient shooting numbers. Boston shot 16-of-19 (84.2%) from the field and 4-of-5 (80.0%) from three-point land in the fourth. According to Max Lederman of NBC Sports Boston, that level of efficiency hasn’t been accomplished since 1996.
Jayson Tatum echoed Udoka’s thought process. He noted that the Celtics knew they played poorly through the first three quarters but were determined to figure things out down the stretch:
We felt like we didn’t play that well. And despite all that, we was only down seven at the start of the fourth, and that was the message. 12 minutes left. Down seven. Figure it out. We was tired a little bit, but that was the message: ‘go out there, give it all you got, leave it all on the floor, and go play winning basketball.’
The 24-year-old dropped 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. He shot 5-of-6 from the field in the final quarter, including a run of ten straight points with just under five minutes remaining, a run that was capped off by this ridiculous circus shot.
But as amazing as Tatum played in the fourth, he was overshadowed by big man Al Horford. Tatum shed light on the team’s mentality when Horford was cooking in the final quarter:
Obviously, Al was playing extremely well, shooting the ball well. So, you know, obviously, look for him after the timeouts. But just throughout the course of that fourth quarter, we were just kind of playing basketball. The ball was just finding him, and he was making the right plays, knocking down shots.
Horford scored a game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter en route to a playoff career-high 30 points. He shot a perfect 6-for-6 in the fourth, including this three, which gave Boston the lead with 5:40 remaining in the contest.
They would not trail for the remainder of the game.
Boston’s big-time fourth-quarter surge helped them recapture homecourt advantage. They’ll now head back to TD Garden for Game 5 with a chance to take a 3-2 series lead. Game 5 will take place on Wednesday, and tip-off is set for 7 p.m. EST. The game can be streamed on TNT.