The first half of Boston’s Game 4 triumph on Tuesday looked dismal. The Celtslike all series, it struggled to catch up Miami heatever-changing defense plan. Their offensive faltered and they were trailing by six points at the break.
Then something clicked in the second half. Boston handled the ball accurately and successfully attacked. They set the floor well and lost 66 points – with only two losses.
The latter half helped the Celtics win the turnover battle for the first time in the entire series, with 15 takeaways against 10 giveaways. In fact, it was only the eighth time in the 17 playoffs so far that the Celtics had won this mini-game, and Miami had lost only the fourth time.
A margin of five turns may seem small, and that’s not the only reason Boston managed to keep the season alive. But the way the Celtics generated turnovers and refrained from accumulating them is worth highlighting. This can be a sign of real progress.
The Heat’s 15 Gifts is the most since Game 3 of the First Round. Admittedly, there were a few sloppy plays that Boston can’t count on coming back. But the best moments looked like the two interceptions above, where the Celtics helped aggressively and got ahead of Miami. If the Celtics can spoil some opportunities for Bam Adebayo like Derrick White did in the second clip, it could cut the tires for the Heat Ball move.
Boston’s overall defensive intensity, while not entirely consistent, was simply present in a way we hadn’t seen in a long time. Sharp chase plays in the transition period. More resistance fighting against the screens and clearer spins. Those two extra interceptions were huge:
The Heat found some easy-to-break buckets, but the Celtics also made those advantageous occasions difficult when possible, such as with the Marcus Smart interception. Rush sets the tone, even if the result doesn’t always show up in the results. Boston, which claimed to be a transitional impulse, led to several ugly plays against Miami, including this late one:
Kyle Lowry basically expects Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams to block the layup attempt even though he has a basket line. So instead of even trying to make contact or throw a controversial shot, he doesn’t throw a wild pass to anyone.
The Celtics’ renewed efforts to wreak havoc on defense kept Miami from falling behind to keep the rhythm. At the same time, they also stepped up on offense with quicker decision making and more active movement across the team.
Jayson Tatum had four losses in the first half and only one in the second half. Early on, we saw him trying to charge into Miami’s defense and losing the ball multiple times. His way of making decisions changed as the game progressed; he still processed fast, but he was attacking before the heat set in, and he wasn’t afraid to use a mid-range jumper to shoot through the zone.
Using Tatum as a blinker against zone defense (like in the third clip) makes a lot of sense. He’s comfortable shooting this vanishing jumper if the defenses give him it, and if they break he can drive or head to the correct outlet. This makes Tatum’s job as a creator less taxing.
Tatum’s 33 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists speak for themselves, but his Game 4 performance was a masterclass in learning and adapting. Kudos to him and Joe Mazzulli for finally landing some great approaches.
Boston clearly can’t afford to regress from either side as Game 5 looms. But until the tip, fans can at least take comfort in knowing that this team is capable due to the frustration of the disciplined Heat team. Now we’ll have to see if they can do it three more times.