The Miami Heat left Jayson Tatum lying on the court with pain in his neck in the closing minutes of Game 3.
The Celtics All-Star did his bit to ensure the Heat were in pain following Game 4.
One team blitzed the other in the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth time in as many games, and one of the oddest best-of-seven series in recent NBA memory is going back to Miami tied, 2-2.
The Miami Heat missed their first 14 shots on Monday night, scored the fewest points (one) in a playoff game this century in the opening nine minutes, and couldn’t recover in a 102-82 defeat to the Boston Celtics.
With 31 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, Jayson Tatum led five Celtics in double figures.
It was a mirror image of Saturday’s Game 3 when the Heat led by 21 points at the conclusion of the first quarter and by as many as 26 points in the first half, only Miami never threatened to stage a comeback in Game 4.
”Obviously, we knew how important this game was,” Tatum said. ”Everybody just had to come up with a different sense of urgency.”
Following a defeat, Boston advanced to 5-0 in the postseason. The difficulty, according to coach Ime Udoka, is finding greater consistency.
”Just got to muster that same energy when we came off a win as well as a loss,” Udoka said. ”This is a three-game series now. Can’t always just flip the mindset when we come off a loss and get a little desperate.”
The return of All-Defensive Center Robert Williams aided the Celtics in controlling the paint, as the Heat made only 14 of 45 tries. Boston controlled the defensive end of the court even without Smart, the Defensive Player of the Year. Scouting yielded two early strips of Adebayo as he twisted into post movements, and he quickly vanished. No one took Jimmy Butler’s up-fakes, and Miami’s top two scorers combined for 15 points.
The Celtics lead by 27 points in the second quarter and by 32 points in the third. This series has featured at least a 20-point edge in every game, and none have been close down the stretch.
The Heat were led by Victor Oladipo, who scored 23 points. All-Star Jimmy Butler (six points), Kyle Lowry (three points), P.J. Tucker (no points), Max Strus (no points), and Bam Adebayo (nine points) led the way for Miami.
They all decided to sit out the fourth quarter.
”They came out and jumped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”We’re not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight for sure. We never could get any kind of grip on the game.”
And the Celtics held off the Heat despite the absence of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat out with a sprained right ankle sustained in the second half of Game 3.
Tyler Herro, who suffered a groin injury late in Game 3, was out for the Heat.
Butler returned to the starting lineup after missing Game 3’s second half due to swelling in his right knee. Lowry (strained left hamstring), Strus (strained hamstring), and Tucker (left knee discomfort) were all cleared to play before the game.
”It’s a part of playoffs. You learn to adapt,” Adebayo said. ”Guys being out, guys playing half, guys playing 20 minutes in the game, just depends. You’ve just got to find a way to win.”
Despite their injured squad, the Celtics got off to the quickest start of the series. White scored the game’s first seven points in lieu of Smart, giving Boston an 8-0 lead.
It swiftly ballooned to 18-1 when Miami missed its opening 14 attempts. The Heat didn’t score their first point until Adebayo’s free throw at 7:56. Miami’s first field goal came at 3:22, a 3-pointer by Oladipo, and the team completed the quarter 3 for 20.
The Celtics led 29-11 entering the second quarter and 57-33 at the intermission. However, the Celtics have controlled the series when they take care of the ball and play the defense that has made them the NBA’s finest on that end all season, but the Heat have had soul-crushing bursts.
Game 5 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday in Miami. Stay tuned for anything.
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