Three thoughts on a season-saving 116-99 Game 4 Celtics win


The Boston Celtics will live to fight another day after earning a season-saving 116-99 Game 4 victory against the Miami Heat Tuesday night. With an early summer vacation perilously close, the Celtics tightened the screws and secured a crucial win behind sharp shooting and a bit more defense. With Jayson Tatum contributing 34 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. All told, it was a more composed scoring effort across the board, and at long last the Celtics truly looked like the more dominant team.

It wasn’t necessarily a pretty win. Boston was down early and showed some familiar warts. The Celtics coughed up 10 turnovers, for example. And Miami wasn’t about to take this one lying down, either. The Heat were predictably poised and tenacious. Still, Boston combined timely shooting and playmaking to overwhelm Miami’s defense, outscoring the Heat 66-43 in the second half and extending the series at least another game.

Here’s what you may have missed from Boston’s 116-99 Game 4 victory Tuesday night against Miami.

Boston offense

Cohesive offense has been a big struggle for the Celtics this series. Boston was averaging just 107.7 points per game against Miami, far lower than their regular season marks and the lowest of any conference finalist. Here in Game 4, the Celtics offense came alive.

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At long last, Boston’s 3-point shooting was effective and consistent, and the visiting squad connected on 19 shots on 45 attempts from deep. This was a massive boost for the Celtics, which simultaneously opened up easier scoring opportunities at the rim. A 38-23 Boston advantage in the third quarter was a pleasant and important change of pace, and marked one of the first times this series where the Celtics looked fully engaged.

All at once, Boston’s streaky shooters came alive. Derrick White and Al Horford were connecting on 3s. Grant Williams looked fresh off the bench. And with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown playing to their potential, suddenly the Celtics showed a bit of fight.

All season long head coach Joe Mazzulla has preached consistent 3-point shooting as a key to success for his team. It’s an analytics-based approach, and one he swore by through thick and thin. Tonight, the gamble paid off, and hot shooting was by far Boston’s most lethal asset.

Boston’s defense

Boston was finally able to slow Miami’s roll in Game 4. The defense was a little more polished, and in particular the Heat struggled to light it up from 3 in the same way. Miami shot a paltry 25% from distance, a big departure from other games this series. It was far from a masterclass of a defensive showing, but Boston slowed Miami down just enough.

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Grant Williams again deserves praise for injecting a bit of energy into the mix. Boston looked a little sluggish especially in the first half, and Williams provided shooting and extra effort as the sun began to set on the Celtics season. Boston has a ways to go, but Williams’ energy may have granted the Celts a little extra life.

When things opened up offensively in the second half, the defense (mostly) settled down as well. Boston can and should be better at dictating the terms of engagement, especially on the defensive end. Game 4 didn’t offer a new blueprint, but rather a reminder of what this team is usually capable of.

Looking ahead

The action now heads back to Boston as the Celtics look to extend the series further. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 postseason deficit in NBA history, but the Celts will certainly give it a go. And that starts one game at a time.

We saw glimpses of the path forward in Game 4. Better defense will be necessary if Boston wants to prolong the season any further. Miami is too disciplined and too opportunistic for any sort of laziness or inconsistency on that end.

On offense, meanwhile, Boston has two options. Either Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can continue to step up and shoulder the scoring responsibility. Otherwise, the Celtics need to make better use of its depth and shooting. Either way, another offensive no-show is simply out of the question.

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Game 4 may have not been a perfect outing for the Celtics. But it was enough to get the job done. Game 5 tips Thursday evening in Boston.

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire

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