NBA playoffs: Celtics find shooting stroke, ride scorching 3rd quarter past Heat to fend off sweep
There will be no sweep at South Beach.
The Boston Celtics rode hot shooting from long distance and a scorching third quarter to a 116-99 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday. The win fends off a sweep by the Heat and forces Game 5 on Thursday in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat entered Tuesday's game with a chance to close out a 4-0 series win at home. They got off to a good start with 18-5 and 20-11 first-half runs to take a 56-50 edge into halftime. But Boston asserted its will after the break.
Boston saves series with dominant 3rd quarter
Trailing 61-52 in the third, the Celtics took control of the game with a 19-0 run in a span of 3:04. They ended the run with a 70-62 lead that they would not relinquish. After struggling to connect from deep all series, the Celtics found their stride in the third while connecting on 7-of-12 3-point attempts and outscoring the Heat, 38-23. They kept the pressure on through the fourth to stamp out any semblance of a Heat rally.
While the Celtics shot well from distance, they also found the elite defense that was their trademark during the regular season and had eluded them through the first three games of the series. They fueled their second-half rally with points off turnovers while limiting Miami from long distance. They outscored the Heat 66-43 in the second half.
By the time it was done, Boston shot 51.2% from the field and 18-of-45 (40%) from long distance. It entered Game 4 having connected on 31-of-106 (29.2%) 3-pointers in the first three games of the series. This was a team that was the NBA's sixth-best (37.7%) 3-point shooting team 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 in the third quarter and 25 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 distance 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 barrage.
The Celtics won the forced turnover battle, 15-10 and secured an 8-2 advantage in blocked shots. They converted the defensive advantage into a free-flowing offense that repeatedly found good shots on the other end. They assisted on 28 of their 43 made field goals.
Celtics limit Heat offense
A Heat team that took a 3-0 advantage thanks to its ball movement and long-distance shooting (47.8% through 3 games) tallied just 18 assists while shooting 34-of-78 (43.6%) from the field and 8-of-32 (25%) from 3-point distance.
Jimmy Butler again paced the Miami effort with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot 9-of-21 from the field and hit 1-of-4 3-point attempts. Caleb Martin kept up his strong 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 while attempting just seven field goals. Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup from a Game 3 leg injury, but played just 12 minutes, tallying 6 points and 4 rebounds. Martin and Love (two each) were the only Heat players to hit multiple 3s.
Boston still faces a daunting task. No team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. The Celtics are seeking to become the first after 150 previous teams failed to do so. They'll have a Game 5 at home and the prospect of another matchup in Boston in Game 7 to fuel their effort at history.