After dropping three straight games and on the brink of elimination, the Boston Celtics came alive during their 116-99 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night. The series will now go back to TD Garden as Boston will look to survive in Game 5 tonight.
In a season where offense was a huge focal point, the Celtics kickstarted their offensive gameplan off of their intense and active defense, forcing Miami into 15 turnovers and holding them to only 18 assists.
For the first time in what feels like a long time, the Celtics felt connected and active, using their defense to create transition opportunities and easy buckets. With every run and counter thrown by Miami, the Celtics fought back tooth and nail, and flat out played like the better team that they claimed to be. It was still a tightly fought game until Boston broke the game open in the 2nd half.
“I mean, honestly, the start of the third quarter could have went the other way,” said Jayson Tatum. “We gave up some threes. We turned the ball over. But I think we just have to settle down a little bit. We saw a couple go in, and we started to play free. We were getting stops, getting out in transition, the ball was popping and it was just finding guys.”
Boston fell behind by 9 in the third, and it felt so familiar to Games 1 and 2 in that regard; the Celtics playing well, then having some late-game disfunction as they let a win slip between their fingers. But to their credit, Boston responded in Game 4, grabbed the rope and held on for dear life as they rattled off a 16-0 run in just two and a half minutes to jump ahead of Miami with a 7-point lead.
Jayson Tatum on #Celtics meeting yesterday:— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 24, 2023
"We tried to break it down. We didn't play well those first three games, we didn't deserve to win. But we didn't want that to define us, define the season. We still got a long uphill battle to go. But tonight was a good start."
“We just had to regroup,” said Tatum, “That’s what we did. I mean, it could have went either way. We could have separated or brought us together, and we settled in and just started making plays. Obviously, shots were falling, things like that, but I think we were just playing the right way. We were getting stops, we were moving the ball...we played well.”
After an embarrassing performance in Game 3, so many were quick to bury the Celtics, labelling them as frauds and more pretenders than contenders. Unsubstantiated reports of locker room discourse were being pedaled by bigtime NBA writers for some clicks — everything from missing Ime Udoka to simply hating each other. Beat writers circled Boston, eager to tear them apart in the public eye for what would be labeled as a failure of a season. Despite all of the noise and how easy and effortless it would be to just roll over, the Celtics showed some guts and pride, reminding us all why they ended up here in the first place.
Jayson Tatum is now the Celtics all-time leader in PPG in the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/VgJGSyG2w1— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 24, 2023
It’s important to remember it’s just one game, and one that can be taken with a grain of salt. The margin of error is so razor-thin for the Celtics from here on out, but so far this postseason, they’ve been here before. It’s all a matter of taking it game by game, and it’s something the team is focused on as well.
"We tried to break it down," said Tatum. "We didn't play well those first three games. We didn't deserve to win. But we didn't want that to define us, define the season. We still got a long uphill battle to go, but tonight was a good start."
Boston will look to keep their season alive once again at TD Garden tonight in Game 5, 8:30 pm EST tipoff.