The Miami Heat thought they were well on their way to completing the sweep of their rival Boston Celtics in Game 4, as it looked like they were able to take the Celtics’ best counterpunches in the first half. After multiple exchanges of big runs, the Heat had managed to close out the second quarter with a 13-6 rally to take a 56-50 lead into the second half.
However, in what felt like a mirror image of the third quarter of Game 3, it was the Celtics this time who would not be denied. The Celtics had an 18-0 run at one point that turned a 61-52 deficit into a 70-61 lead in the third quarter and then never looked back. Jayson Tatum, who had struggled in Game 3, scored 26 of his 34 points in the second half to lead Boston to their 116-99 victory.
The Heat, who have come back from multiple double-digit deficits throughout these playoffs, looked like they ran out of gas and also got thrown off by the defensive pressure that the Celtics applied. Boston, to their credit, showed a lot more fight on defense in Game 4 and that was evidenced by the 27 points that they scored off of 17 Heat turnovers.
Consistent pressure was the name of the game in the second half and the Heat couldn’t fight their way past the Celtics’ defense. Jimmy Butler, who had 29 points, nine rebounds, five assists and a steal, tried his best to carry them back into the game but by the time he started making shots (he only had nine points in the first half), the Celtics had already started to pull away. At one point Butler scored or assisted on 16-straight Miami points, but the Celtics always seemed to have an answer.
Compounding the problem for Miami was how the rest of the team disappeared when Butler tried to turn it on. Bam Adebayo finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds in 35 minutes and was scoreless in the second half.
The same thing happened to Caleb Martin, who started the first half scorching from the field with 16 points while making all six of his field goal attempts.
Martin would only go on to attempt three more shots and miss them all to also go scoreless in the second half. Gabe Vincent, who had 10 points at halftime, did manage to finish with 17, but he unfortunately rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter – which may affect his availability for Game 5 in Boston. Vincent showed some of his playmaking chops in Game 4, too, including a nifty behind the back pass to Bam Adebayo out of a double team, so his scoring and passing will be sorely missed on an already-thin roster should he miss Game 5.
Kyle Lowry also looked to have potentially tweaked his knee while slipping on the court in the first quarter, so his effectiveness may be hampered in Game 5 as well. He looked to be moving a fair bit slower after that incident, even though he did play through the rest of the game.
The biggest thing the Heat will need to figure out, though, is how to get back to defending the Celtics’ three-point attempts. Boston went 18 of 44 from beyond the arc in Game 4 compared to Miami’s 8 of 32, and it’s always going to be near-impossible to win a game with that kind of discrepancy in made threes.
The Heat did not get to a 3-0 lead by accident, but now their will is going to be tested. The Celtics will be brimming with confidence heading into Game 5. Knowing Erik Spoelstra, he’s not going to sleep for the next 24 hours trying to figure out how to close things out in Boston. We’ll have to see if he can come up with the right adjustments.