There will be no sweeping in South Beach.
The Boston Celtics produced long-range shots and a scorching third quarter for a 116-99 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday. The win fends off a Heat sweep and forces Game 5 on Thursday in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat entered Tuesday’s game with a chance to wrap up a 4-0 win at home. They got off to a good start with 18-5 and 20-11 points in the first half to take a 56-50 advantage at halftime. But Boston asserted its will after the break.
Boston saves the series with a dominant 3rd quarter
Trailing 61-52 in the third, the Celtics took control of the game with a 19-0 run in 3:04. They finished the race with a 70-62 lead that they would not relinquish. After struggling to connect for all series, the Celtics found their groove in the third while connecting on 7 of 12 3-point attempts and beating the Heat, 38-23. They kept up the pressure throughout the fourth to eliminate any semblance of a Heat rally.
While the Celtics shot well from distance, they also found the elite defense that was their hallmark during the regular season and had eluded them in the first three games of the series. They fueled their second-half rally with points on turnovers while limiting Miami from long range. They outscored the Heat, 66-43 in the second half.
At the time it was done, Boston shot 51.2 percent from the field and 19 of 45 (42.2 percent) from long range. He entered Game 4 having made 31 of 106 (29.2%) 3-pointers in the first three games of the series. It was a team that was the sixth-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA (37.7%) during the regular season.
Tatum’s big night
Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 33 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. He scored 14 of his 33 goals in the third quarter and 25 in total after halftime. He connected on 4 of 9 shots from beyond the arc. He was one of five Boston players to connect on three or more 3-pointers.
Grant Williams hit 4 of 6 from long range off the bench en route to 14 points. Marcus Smart (3 of 9), Derrick White (3 of 7) and Al Horford (3 of 6) also contributed to Boston’s 3-point playoff.
The Celtics won the forced rotation battle, 15-10 and took an 8-2 advantage in blocked shots. They converted the defensive advantage into a fluid attack that repeatedly found good shots at the other end. They assisted on 28 of their 43 field goals.
Celtics limit Heat offense
A Heat team that took a 3-0 advantage with their ball movement and long-range shooting collected just 18 assists while shooting 34 of 78 (43.6%) from the field and 8 from the field. 32 (25%) at 3 points away.
Jimmy Butler once again paced Miami’s effort with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot 9 of 21 from the field and made 1 of 4 3-point attempts. Caleb Martin kept up his solid effort off the bench with 16 points on a 6-of-9 shooting night. Gabe Vincent scored 17 while shooting 5-of-10 from the floor.
Bam Adebayo was limited to 10 points despite only attempting seven field goals. Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup after a leg injury in Game 3, but played only 12 minutes, totaling 6 points and 4 rebounds. Martin and Love (2 each) were the only Heat players to hit multiple 3s.
Boston still faces a daunting task. No team in NBA history has risen from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. The Celtics are looking to become first after 150 previous teams failed. They’ll have Game 5 at home and the prospect of another game in Boston in Game 7 to fuel their history making effort.