Staring down elimination, the Celtics responded in Game 4 and looked like the dominant team we saw for much of the regular season -- well, at least in the second half.
It was the first quarter that put Boston in an early hole, as they were outscored 29-23 in the opening frame. It was many of the same issues that put the Celtics in the 3-0 hole that plagued them in the first quarter.
The Celtics didn’t take care of the basketball and were beaten on the perimeter in the first. After making their first two three-point attempts of the game, Boston closed the opening quarter missing 9-of-11 while Miami shot 4-of-10. The Celtics also finished the first with five turnovers, which was equivalent to the amount of assists they had. Parlay poor play on the perimeter with sloppy play and the Celtics found themselves trailing by six early.
Though Boston would clean things up a little bit in the second quarter, the six-point deficit remained entering the half due to turnovers and continued struggles on the defensive end.
It also didn’t help that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown struggled mightily in the first half. The Jays finished the first half combining for just 15 points, as Tatum finished with more turnovers (4) than made field goals in the first half. For Brown, he finished with a plus/minus of minus-11 in the first half, as he looked utterly perplexed on the defensive end of the floor.
After an up and down first half for Boston, they once again were being dragged for their lack of toughness by the TNT crew at the half. Down by six, with their season on the line, Boston had a decision to make. Were they going to give up and quit like they did in Game 3, or were they going to go down fighting in an attempt to keep their season alive?
The C’s chose the latter. Led by their superstar, the C’s responded in a big way in the second half. Tatum put up 25 points in the second half on a very efficient 11-of-15 (73.3%) shooting.
The Celtics outscored Miami 66-43 in the second half, as they returned to playing the dominant brand of basketball we grew accustomed to seeing from them for much of this season. Behind a dominant third quarter, which has been so shaky this postseason for the C’s, Boston was able to jump out to a nine-point lead entering the fourth. In the third quarter alone, the Celtics outscored the Heat 38-23, as they shot 14-of-23 (60.9%) from the field and 7-of-12 (58.3%) from three, while recording just one turnover.
In another encouraging development, Boston was able to remain focused, and keep their foot on the gas, all the way until Erik Spoelstra waved the white flag with 1:41 left in the game.
Boston was able to control the perimeter (which is truly where this series has been won and lost), take care of the ball, and most importantly, play complementary basketball, turning their defense into offense. Maybe it’s too little, too late, but Boston was finally able to break the bad habits that have been detrimental to their success this series, and return to their game, which all starts with playing complementary basketball and knocking down their threes.
Though the Celtics still have a lot of work to do, as they still sit in a massive 3-1 hole coming back to TD Garden, where they are just 4-5 this postseason, Game 4 should provide at least a glimmer of hope that this team can at least make things interesting, as they look to do something no team in NBA history has ever accomplished.