After a blowout road win in Game 2 to steal home-court advantage from the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics ceded the advantage with a home loss on Saturday. Just 48 hours later at TD Garden, the Celtics wasted no time in taking control of Game 4, seizing a massive first half lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory to even the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2.
Prior to tip-off, the lion’s share of attention was on the injury report, with Tyler Herro ruled out for Miami and Marcus Smart out of action for Boston. Even without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Boston’s defense was suffocating in the early going, and the Heat certainly missed Herro’s offensive punch. In fact, Miami was simply unable to score for an incredibly lengthy period of time in the opening period.
The Heat missed their first 14 shots, the most consecutive misses to open a playoff game in more than two decades, and Miami did not convert a field goal for more than eight and a half minutes. With seven quick points from Derrick White and reasonable offensive efficiency, Boston took an 18-1 advantage, even as the Celtics missed six of their first seven attempts from three-point range.
Miami eventually coaxed a couple of shots through the rim with help of Victor Oladipo, but Boston led by as many as 22 points in the first quarter and held a 29-11 lead after 12 minutes. The Heat shot just 15 percent from the floor in the period, setting a new franchise playoff record for the fewest points in an opening quarter. Boston was not overly efficient in terms of shot making, but the Celtics owned a massive advantage on the glass, winning the possession battle and benefitting from Miami’s inaccurate attack.
Picking up where they left off in the first quarter, the Celtics nudged their advantage to as many as 27 points in the second quarter, leading 50-23 after approximately 20 minutes of action. The Heat missed 19 of their first 23 attempts from inside the three-point arc, with Boston riding Jayson Tatum on the offensive end.
The Heat starters finished with 12 points in the 1st half.
That is the fewest points in the 1st half of a playoff game by a starting lineup since the 76ers against the Heat in 2011 (had 9). pic.twitter.com/GDw2PhmVfn
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2022AdvertisementAdvertisement
Tatum led the Celtics with 24 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first quarter, using 14 free throw attempts to boost efficiency. Boston’s team-wide offensive numbers (38 percent from the floor, 4-of-17 from three-point range) were extremely pedestrian, but with Miami shooting just 11-of-40 from the floor on the way to 33 points, the Celtics held a 24-point advantage at the break.
Jayson Tatum has scored 20+ points in the 1st half in 3 of the 4 games in this series.
Over the last 25 years, the only other players with 3 20-point first halves in a single Conference Finals are James Harden and LeBron James. pic.twitter.com/bRR8fGZX0G
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2022
Boston continued its dominance to begin the third quarter. The Celtics built their lead to 32 points and, by the middle of the period, whispers were circulating on just how long the starters for both teams would remain in the contest.
However, the Celtics scored only 19 points in the third quarter, shooting 35 percent from the floor in the process. It wasn’t as if Miami lit the world on fire on offense, also scoring 19 points, but the Heat used an 8-0 run late in the period to get back within 24 points with 12 minutes remaining.
That (faint) push from the Heat did not persist, and the game effectively ended with a final haymaker from the Celtics early in the fourth quarter. Boston used a 12-5 run to take a 31-point lead, and while the Heat did close the gap with hot three-point shooting in garbage time, the result was never in doubt.
For Miami, it was simply an offensive nightmare. Oladipo performed well with 23 points, but the Heat dug an impossibly deep hole in the first half and shot just 29.6 percent on two-point attempts, even with the help of a scattered fourth quarter. On the other end, Miami’s defense was at least reasonable, aside from failures on the defensive glass, but it was a performance to forget.
Boston did not light up the box score with shotmaking, but the Celtics used the free throw line and their defensive resistance to secure the win. The home team shot 32-of-38 from the line and secured 14 offensive rebounds while committing only 11 turnovers. Tatum led the attack with 31 points, and it was a balanced and effective effort despite only 23.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
With the series now leveled at 2-2 and the Heat still boasting home-court advantage in the best-of-seven clash, there is something of a reset in advance of Wednesday’s Game 5 in Miami. Through four contests, however, the series has operated in bizarre fashion, and the status of Herro and Smart will be of great interest as the teams travel on Tuesday.