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Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Finals Game #4 5/23/22

The Celtics look to even the series as they host the Heat for Game #4 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For the second straight series, the Celtics go into Game 4 down 1-2 and need to win this game to even the series and give themselves a chance to win the series. The Celtics have beaten themselves in the two games that they lost. Of the 12 quarters played so far, the Celtics have won or tied 10 of them. In Game 1, the Heat out scored the Celtic 39-14 and in the first quarter of Game 3, the Heat outscored the Celtics 39-18. Those two losses made the difference between winning and losing two games.

In Game 3, the Heat came out with an edge and played very physical basketball, going up by 26 points in the first half. They still led by 15 going into the 4th quarter. The Celtics pulled to within 1 point with 2:40 to go in the game. But then they allowed Max Strus to hit a 3 pointer and turned the ball over for another score and that was the end of their run. Turnovers were the killer throughout the game with the Celtics turning the ball over 24 times for 33 Heat points.

But all is not lost for this Celtics team. Throughout the playoffs, they have been very resilient and have been able to bounce back after losses and are 4-0 after a loss in the playoffs. In the Conference Semifinals, the Celtics lost Game 1 and bounced back to win Game 2. They lost Game 3 and bounced back to win Game 4. They lost Game 5 and bounced back to win Game 6 and, of course, they won Game 7. They had home court in that series but against the Heat, Game 7 would be in Miami and would be much harder to win so they need to snap out of that pattern and not let up after every win.

Both teams have had to deal with injuries. Marcus Smart missed Game 1 with a foot injury that he suffered in Game 7 against the Bucks. He returned for Game 2 and a healthy Celtics team blew out the Heat. Robert Williams missed Game 3 with swelling in his knee stemming from a contusion. Marcus Smart left Game 3 after turning his ankle but returned not long after and played the rest of the game. He is questionable for this game due to the sprain.

Robert Williams is once again questionable due to swelling from the contusion on his knee. Jayson Tatum left Game 3 with a stinger in his shoulder but like Smart, returned to the game not long afterwards. He is listed as probable with a cervical nerve impingement. Sam Hauser is listed as out due to a shoulder injury that has kept him out for all games in this series so far. The final status for Smart, Williams, and Tatum will all be game time decisions.

The Heat have both Max Strus and Gabe Vincent as questionable with hamstring injuries. However they have been questionable for every game in the 2nd round and this one and have shown no indication of any injury so they will likely play. PJ Tucker is questionable for this game with a knee injury and Kyle Lowry is questionable with a hamstring injury. Both players played the entire game on Saturday with no visible problems and so are likely to play in this one as well.

Tyler Herro left Game 3 with what was thought to be a quad injury. He didn’t return but Spoelstra indicated that was mostly because Oladipo was playing very well in his place. He is listed as out for this game. Jimmy Butler played just 19 minutes in Game 3 and did not return after halftime due to swelling in his knee. He is listed as questionable but most reports are that he will play in this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Payton Pritchard
Derrick White
Daniel Theis
Luke Kornet
Sam Hauser
Aaron Nesmith
Malik Fitts
Juwan Morgan
Nick Stauskas

Sam Hauser (shoulder) out
Robert Williams III (knee) questionable
Jayson Tatum (shoulder) probable
Marcus Smart (ankle) questionable

Head Coach
Ime Udoka

Probable Heat Starters

PG: Gabe Vincent
SG: Max Strus
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Bam Adebayo

Heat Reserves
Dewayne Dedmon
Udonis Haslem
Haywood Highsmith
Caleb Martin
Markieff Morris
Victor Oladipo
Duncan Robinson
Omer Yurtseven

Kyle Lowry (hamstring) questionable
PJ Tucker (knee) questionable
Gabe Vincent (hamstring) questionable
Max Strus (hamstring) questionable
Tyler Herro (groin) out
Jimmy Butler (knee) questionable

Head Coach
Erik Spoelstra

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Jimmy Butler
This is definitely the key matchup for this game and for this series. After averaging 35 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in the first two games, he had 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in just 19 minutes of Game 3 before sitting out the second half with swelling in his knee. After shooting 2-9 from beyond the arc in Game 1, Jayson Tatum hit 4-6 threes in Game 2. In Game 3, he shot just 21% from the field and 14.3% from beyond the arc and didn’t hit any shots in the second half. He also turned the ball over 6 times. The Celtics will need Jayson to be efficient once again in this game and to avoid turning the ball over. He needs to play team ball and not hero ball and not complain to the refs quite so much.

Al Horford vs Bam Adebayo
Adebayo made the biggest difference for the Heat in this game. After averaging 8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in the first two games, he came out in Game 3 very aggressive right from the start. He put up 31 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 1 block in Game 3. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint as well as off the boards. Daniel Theis started Game 2 in place of Robert Williams but struggled and was replaced by Grant Williams to start the second half. The Celtics have been outscored by 42 points with Theis at center and they have outscored Miami by 41 points in the minutes he has been off the court. Hopefully Ime will go with Grant again in this game. Al Horford had an excellent Game 3 with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks while shooting 50% from the field and 60% on threes. Hopefully he can get some more help in this one.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Max Strus
I would have gone with Smart vs Lowry here but with both of them being questionable, I’ll go with Strus vs Brown. Strus has played well for the Heat and in Game 3 had 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block in Game 3. He shot 50% from the field and 57.1% from beyond the arc. He hit a big 3 to put the Heat up 4 after the Celtics cut it to 1 with 2:40 left in the game. Jaylen Brown scored a playoff career high 40 points in Game 3, but he also turned the ball over 7 times and seemed disengaged on defense at times. Hopefully he will be more focused on defense in this game and also on not turning the ball over.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Always, always, always, defense is the biggest key to winning every game, especially in the playoffs and especially in this series. Both of these teams play tough physical defense. In Game 1, the Celtics allowed 118 points, which is out of character for their normal defense. In Game 2, they allowed only 102 points while the Heat gave up 127 points to the Celtics. In Game 3, the Celtics came out flat and allowed the Heat to score 39 points in the first quarter while they scored just 18. The Celtics must continue to make defense a priority and they have to play harder on defense than the Heat. Jimmy Butler has been their main scoring option in Games 1 and 2 but in Game 3, Adebayo was very aggressive and scored at will, finishing with 31 points. The Celtics have to be more aggressive on defense and focus on getting stops.

Rebound - As with defense, rebounding will always be a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and when the Celtics put out that extra effort to grab rebounds, it usually translates to other areas of the game as well. They need the ball to score and a great way to get the ball is to grab rebounds. In Games 1 and 2, the Heat had just 1 more rebound than the Celtics. In Game 3, the Celtics did better on the glass, out rebounding the Heat 44-34. The Celtics have to work harder than the Heat to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive end.

Let’s Be Physical - In Game 3 the Heat were the more physical team and imposed their will on the Celtics. The Celtics have to come out more aggressive and drive to the basket, They have to be more aggressive on defense and on rebounds. They have to be more aggressive in diving for loose balls. They can’t allow the Heat to be the more physical team again and they can’t let them set the pace. The Celtics must match the Heat’s physicality and then be even more physical. They also have to be ready for the Heat’s physical play and not allow it to take them out of their game.

Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics turned the ball over 24 times in Game 3 and the Heat got 33 points off of those turnovers. The Celtics must take better care of the ball. They can’t make sloppy passes or get careless dribbling up the court because if they do, the Heat are very good at getting into passing lanes and they also are quick to grab the ball if a Celtic drives into a crowd or gets sloppy with their handles. The Celtics had just 9 turnovers in their Game 2 win and the Celtics have to limit their turnovers in this game if they want to get a win.

Stay Focused and Play as a Team - The Celtics have to stay focused. Their turnovers, missed layups and missed free throws in Game 3 are a sign of a lack of focus by the team. They have to focus on taking good shots and on handling the ball and on finishing when they get to the basket. When they get free throws they can’t loose focus and miss them. They have to trust each other and not resort to hero ball as they did in Game 3. They have to move the ball and find the best shot and not try to win the game individually.

Injuries - As I write this, there are several players who are questionable on both teams. I’m expecting all of the players who are questionable on the Heat to play, which would put them at full strength since none of those injuries seemed to be serious. Even though Marcus Smart finished the game on Saturday, his ankle injury looked to be pretty bad and Ime said that his ankle was swollen on Sunday. Also, they have been very conservative with Robert Williams and so I am concerned that both of those players may miss this game. Hopefully they can play and not be limited.

Coaching - As the series goes on, coaching becomes more and more of an X-Factor. In Game 1 Spoelstra made adjustments at the half and the Heat came out and dominated the Celtics in the 3rd quarter. In Game 2, Udoka made adjustments after the Game 1 loss and the Celtics came back and blew out the Heat. In Game 3, it was Spoelstra’s turn to make adjustments and the Heat came out and caught the Celtics off guard with their physicality in the first quarter. Now it is time for Ime to adjust and hopefully he will press all the right buttons.

Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home for Game 4. The Heat will have the distractions of being on the road and having to stay in a hotel and the cheers (and jeers) of the Celtics fans, which are always loud in the playoffs. The Celtics need to reward their fans with a game where they give maximum effort to defeat a rival team in what will be a key game in this series.

Officiating -Officiating is always an x-factor in every game. Every crew officiates differently. Some call it tight, others let them play. Some favor the home team. Some favor the road team. Some just make bad, head scratching calls. In Game 1, the officiating was fairly even with they shot 66 free throws between them. It seemed that every time down the court someone was on the free throw line. In Game 2, it was also fairly even with the teams taking just 45 free throws between them and the game seemed to have more flow. In Game 3, the Celtics shot 30 free throws to 14 for the Heat. Part of the disparity was due to the difference in physicality between the two teams. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the refs call the game and not let bad calls and no calls take them out of the game or affect their focus. Most of all, the Celtics have to stop complaining after every call instead of getting back on defense.


According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are seven-point favorites in Game 4 hosting the Heat at TD Garden. It’s the widest pregame odds of the Eastern Conference Finals so far. Miami will be without Tyler Herro with a groin injury with Jimmy Butler (knee), Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Max Strus (hamstring), P.J. Tucker (knee), and Gabe Vincent (hamstring) intending to play. Boston is more of a mystery on the injury front; Marcus Smart (ankle) and Robert Williams (knee) are both questionable with day-to-day injuries.

Game 3 was another one of those “one bad quarter” games for the Celtics and the Heat have capitalized. Miami has only won two quarters in the series so far, but those 39-14 in Game 1 and 39-18 in Game 3 runs have given them a 2-1 series lead and regained home court advantage. Much of Boston’s issues have been self-inflicted and (hopefully) therefor, fixable. Sixteen turnovers in Game 1 turned into nineteen points and worse, 24 turnovers in Game 3 buried Boston under 33 points.

Against the Bucks, Jayson Tatum followed up a disappointing Game 3 performance where he scored only 10 points in a two-point loss with 30 in a Game 4 win on the road to tie the series. Tonight presents similar circumstances. An average Tatum performance could have fueled a Game 3 comeback on Saturday night, but again, a ten-point outing just wasn’t enough. He doesn’t have to be great tonight, but another clunker could bury Boston even further in this ECF.

All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.

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