Updated: Jun 20
It's been a physically demanding series for both teams at the top of the Eastern Conference in the No.2 seed Boston Celtics and No.1 seed Miami Heat, who are up 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 after a wild Game 3 109-103 victory for the Heat in a game that saw their star Jimmy Butler miss the second half due to knee inflammation and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Tyler Herro missing the final eight minutes of the game after suffering a strained left groin injury that would keep him out Game 4. The Celtics would also be without the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) in Marcus Smart (left ankle), and would have the athletic, shot-blocking big man in Robert WIlliams III making his return in Game 4 despite continuous knee problems.
Butler would play in Game 4 despite suffering knee swelling in the previous game, but the Celtics came out with a different intensity and energy in Game 4 then they did in Game 3, attacking the Heat’s defense each possession. The Celtics got off to a 18-1 start with the Heat missing 15 of their first 16 field goals, their initial field goal in the game didn’t come until a Victor Oladipo three at the 3:22 minute mark of the first quarter! Yikes!
This series has seen some tremendous runs by both teams with the Heat outscoring the Celtics by 25 and 21 in Games 1 & 3 respectively, and the Celtics outscoring the Heat by 25 in Game 2. In Game 4, Celtics superstar forward Jayson Tatum flipped the switch by attacking from the opening tip to put up 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists in just the first quarter. This came after a horrid Game 3 that saw him score just 20 points on 3-of-14 (21%) shooting from the field, while also committing more turnovers (six) than he had field goals!
His swingman, fellow All-Star Jaylen Brown, had 42 points but was sloppy with the ball as well, turning the ball over a whopping seven times, with him and Tatum combining for 13 in Game 3 in a disappointing loss that saw the Heat lose two of their best scorers in Butler and Herro in a tight close game. The Heat would win Game 3 due to the dominance of their versatile star big man in Bam Adebayo who had 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in what was by far the best game of the series for what has been an inconsistent postseason for the Heat big man.
Adebayo was quiet in the first half, scoring just two points, and only attempting two shots, which can be frustrating to see of someone who’s so physically gifted and skilled for a player his size, especially after a performance he put up in Game 3, which is what the Heat are going to need if they are going to have a chance of beating the Celtics and potentially winning the title this season.
The Celtics were up by as much as 27 with 4:18 late in the second quarter, with both teams struggling from the field, with the Heat shooting just 28%, to the Celtics 37% in the first half. The Heat came out flat in the first half, and they just didn’t bring that so-called “Workhorse Mentality” that they usually bring on a consistent basis. Miami’s starting five of Butler, Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, and hard nosed veteran P.J. Tucker combined for just 12 points at the half with the Celtics up 57-33! Lowry and Strus played with strained hamstrings, and Tucker is dealing with left knee soreness, but this is the playoffs, everyone is injured or knocked up at this point, so no excuses for the lack of effort in the first half.
Tatum was impressive in the first half, putting up 24 points on 54% shooting (6-of-11) along with 14-of-16 from the foul line to go with six rebounds. The Celtics would continue pushing their lead early, pushing it to as much as 32 midway through the third. The Heat were able to cut the lead to 23 after a Tatum turnover with 30 seconds to go in 3rd, but Tatum would come right back with a three to put the Celtics up 26 heading into the 4th.
The Heat would score a meaningless 30 points in the fourth, getting their deficit into the low 20s, but weren’t able to overcome their putrid shooting night and lack of effort for a Celtics team that responded well after a pathetic Game 3 performance. Butler finished with just six points on 3-of-14 shooting, with Adebayo, Lowry, Strus, and Tucker combining for 12 points together all game to give the Heat starters 18 in total! That’s a 3.6 points per game average per starter.
Those 18 points by the Heats starters are the lowest total in a playoff game since 1970-71. Tatum scored more points (31) than the Heat's starters (18). The foul disparity in this game you could say helped the Celtics, with the Celtics having 15 total fouls to the Heat's 26. The Heat also got outrebounded 60-39, which is pitiful for a team that was ranked 13th in total offensive rebounds this season and sixth in defensive rebounds, according to https://www.lineups.com/nba/team-rankings .
Despite Tatum’s great performance, he did have help from center Al Horford, who was tremendous on the defensive end with four blocks to make life tough for Adebayo, and was a menace on the glass with 13 rebounds. “Time Lord”, aka Williams III almost had a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds to go along with 2 blocks. The Celtic's rim protection in Horford and Williams III really helps bring a blanket of security on the defensive end to make up for mistakes on switches and whenever their perimeter guys got beat.
The Celtics would give the Heat a taste of their own medicine in a 102-82 blowout in Game 4 to tie the series at two apiece. Can the Heat come up with a win in Game 5 at home on Wednesday to take a 3-2 series lead? Or will the Celtics show their resiliency to get the win on the road and try to close it out at TD Garden in Game 6 on Friday? It’s gonna be a battle for a spot in the NBA Finals, so as these two heavyweights battle it out to see who comes out the Eastern Conference, let's just sit back and enjoy the show.