With their backs against the wall in a fashion they’ve seldom been accustomed to, the Boston Celtics dug deep and found some answers. Seeking to climb out of a self-inflicted hole in the Eastern Conference Finals — and become the first team in NBA history to win a series after trailing three games to zero — they won Game 4 over the Miami Heat, 116-99, behind an impressive second half effort.
Jayson Tatum was the rising tide that raised all ships this evening. He scored 34 points, grabbed 11 boards and dished 7 assists in his 42 minutes, buoying the Celtics with their season on the line once again. Miami’s undrafted duo of unlikely heroes, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin, continued to excel, combining for 33 points, but Vincent departed the game with an injury in the fourth quarter, and postseason star Jimmy Butler suffered through an ineffective 9-of-21 shooting line on the night.
The Celtics began the game by connecting on their first four shot attempts, but the hot start quickly got mired in familiar issues — turnovers, missed shots, sloppy defense. After leading by six, they gave up a 14-3 Miami run to fall right back into the muck. The Heat continued to capitalize on Boston’s mistakes, as they have all series, and built their lead as high as nine points. The Celtics trailed by six heading into the second, 29-23.
May 24, 2023
Late in the first quarter, Miami’s Kyle Lowry appeared to slip while scrapping in the paint to contest a shot by Grant Williams. He fell to the floor grabbing at his left knee, which has caused him issues repeatedly during his Heat tenure. After struggling to walk during a video review — in which he was called for a common foul despite hitting Williams in the face — he remained in the game.
The second quarter brought a rare burst of momentum for Boston, on both ends of the floor. From the end of the first through the early minutes of the second, they went on a 17-5 run to reclaim the lead from Miami for at least a moment. The Heat countered with scoring binges from their two unlikely heroes this postseason: Vincent and Martin. The duo combined for 25 first-half points, and seemed to have all the counterpunches for the Boston surge. Ultimately, despite the noise, the Celtics ended the second quarter the same as the first, trailing by six points, 56-50.
count it pic.twitter.com/Uz6pFqsdOe— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 24, 2023
Early in the third quarter, the game teetered on the verge of getting out of hand as the Heat regained a nine-point lead on a second-chance three from Vincent. Tatum, however, was finally ready to make his presence felt. He connected on consecutive three-pointers to reassert the Celtics in the game, and his spark ignited an 18-5 Boston run to build the largest Celtic lead of the night and prompt an Erik Spoelstra timeout with just under seven minutes remaining in the quarter. It was — by far — their best stretch in the series to this point. They hung a whopping 38 points on Miami in the frame, and led 88-79 entering the fourth quarter.
A brief couple minutes of rest for Tatum led to only two made buckets for the Heat, quickly erased by the Celtics upon Tatum’s reentry to the game. Matters became more complicated for Miami moments later, as Vincent appeared to turn his ankle on an awkward landing and suffered an injury. He limped his way through the ensuing possession — a Tatum three-pointer — and immediately departed for the locker room after a Spoelstra timeout.
May 24, 2023
The Celtics pushed ahead with a 12-4 run across the opening minutes of the quarter, building a 17-point lead. The Heat creeped their way back in over the ensuing minutes, cutting the lead back down to 13, but in a crucial sequence, Adebayo turned the ball over and Brown converted on the and-one layup at the other end. That ultimately served as the dagger, and the Celtics earned themselves another night of basketball.
Next up, the Celtics will return home to Boston, where they’ll continue to strive to make history in Game 5 against the Heat, this Thursday at 8:30 EST on TNT.