BOSTON -- All that matters is that the Celtics won Game 4, and now the Eastern Conference Finals is tied at 2-2.
The Celtics won in blowout fashion, beating the Heat 102-82 to knot the series. But boy was Game 4 ugly for most of the evening.
Boston won big despite not shooting particularly well, hitting less than 40 percent of its shots: 31-for-78. But Miami was much, much worse, hitting just 30 of its 90 attempts, and got off to one of the worst starts in NBA postseason history.
The Celtics rode that -- and 31 points from Jayson Tatum -- to an easy win on Monday night. Tatum had his bounce-back effort after a stinker in Game 3, scoring his 31 on 8-for-16 shooting from the floor and 14 made free throws. Derrick White got the start in place of the injured Marcus Smart and stuffed the score sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Robert Williams made his return after missing Game 3 with knee soreness, and notched 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in his 19 minutes on the floor.
The Heat got just six points from Jimmy Butler (3-for-14) and three points from Kyle Lowry (1-for-6). The Miami starting five scored just 18 points, with Bam Adebayo leading the way with nine. Victor Oladipo led all Heat scorers with 23 points off the bench.
"The focus was great tonight. We understand we have to be more aggressive on the defensive end," head coach Ime Udoka said after the win. "None of their starters scored in double disfigures. We set the tone right there.
"We have one of the most prideful teams in the NBA, and guys heard some things that were said and took pride in those matches," Udoka added. "We had the right mindset, and now we need to duplicate it in Game 5."
It was an ugly game for large stretches, but the Celtics will certainly take the outcome. Boston dominated the game down low, outscoring Miami 38-28 in the paint while crushing it on the glass, 60-39.
The biggest change from Game 3 was Boston's turnovers. After coughing the ball up 24 times on Saturday night, the Celtics had just 11 turnovers in Game 4, and only four in the first half.
White scored Boston's first seven points, sandwiching a three between a pair of driving layups. A Tatum driving layup in transition (plus the foul) put the Celtics up 12-1 after five minutes of action, as the Heat missed their first eight shots.
That shooting slump continued for Miami until there was 3:22 left in the first quarter -- the longest a team has gone without a field goal to start any playoff game over the last 25 years. The Heat missed their first 14 shots until Oladipo drained a three, making it an 18-4 game. Payton Pritchard hit a three on Boston's next trip down the floor, pushing the lead back up to 17 for the Celtics.
The one point that the Heat scored through the first eight minutes was the lowest that any team has scored in a playoff game over the last 25 years. Miami shot just 3-for-20 in the opening quarter, and the Celtics took advantage by building a 29-11 lead. Tatum scored 12 points in the quarter, half of which came at the free throw line, while White scored 10.
Tatum kept pushing for the Celtics and had a beautiful reverse layup early in the second quarter to push the Boston lead to 20, 38-18. After scoring just 10 points in Game 3, Tatum had 24 by halftime on Monday night.
White continued his strong play as well, contributing on both ends of the floor. He stripped Adebayo on the defensive end, leading to a nice Jaylen Brown layup in transition to put the Celtics on top 40-21. White finished with three steals for the night.
The Celtics went up by as many as 27 points in the first half and took a 57-33 lead into the locker room. Boston scored 20 points in the paint and got 21 points at the free throw line in the first half. Tatum had 12 points at the line in the first half, matching the scoring output of Miami's starting five over the first 24 minutes.
The Heat shot just 11-for-39, and that was with Oladipo hitting five of his seven attempts from the floor. Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo were a combined 5-for-17 for a dozen points in the first half. (Starters Max Strus and PJ Tucker were scoreless off 0-for-8 shooting.)
Tatum and White outscored the heat themselves, 35-33, in the first half.
Tatum continued to pour it on in the second half. He made an incredible spinning fadeaway after having both Adebayo and Butler defending him on the drive. The hoop put Boston up 67-37 early in the third quarter.
Neither team played particularly well in the third, with both putting up 19 points. Boston led 76-56 heading into the fourth quarter.
One guy who never let up was Al Horford. He sent back a Caleb Martin layup attempt early in the fourth quarter for one of his four blocks on the night, which sent the TD Garden crowd into hysterics. Horford didn't score much, finishing with five points, but he was huge defensively and on the glass. The 35-year-old pulled down 13 rebounds in his 33 minutes in Game 4.
Pritchard, who finished with 14 points off the bench, canned an 11-foot pullup with 8:57 to go to build the Boston lead to 88-57. That unofficially started the clock on garbage time, as both teams emptied the bench the rest of the way.
The Celtics now have two blowout wins over the Heat in the series, but have to be pretty disappointed that the series is tied 2-2. Had it not been for their horrendous third quarter in Game 1, and whatever that was throughout Game 3 on Saturday night, the Celtics could own a series lead on the Heat.
But at least the Celtics continued their trend of bouncing back after a loss, and the momentum is back on their side as they head to Miami for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
"This is a three-game series now," said Udoka.
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