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Jayson Tatum bounces back in a big way, helps Boston tie up ECF 2-2

Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This series has been rather bizarre to say the least. It’s tied up 2-2 after a Celtics win on Monday evening, but none of the games have really been too competitive -- for starters, all four of the games have had 20-point leads, and two of them have had 30-point leads. Just to recap, the Celtics were dominating Game 1 until a 39-14 third quarter favoring the Heat, and then Boston blew Miami out in Game 2 with Jimmy Butler getting little help before heading to Boston tied 1-1. Seemingly every player got hurt in Game 3 and the Heat only won by six points despite an insane 39-18 first quarter effort, and a miserable 11-point first quarter and a much better Jayson Tatum was all that was needed for Boston to win Game 4 and tie things up again. This must be the worst series to bet on, and I honestly have no idea what Wednesday’s Game 5 has in store, but let’s just hope it’s close. On a side note, Miami has only won three quarters out of 16 total in the series, so they should be pretty satisfied with where things stand despite an awful Game 4. Let’s dive into that one.

Celtics 102, Heat 82 (Series tied 2-2)

Unfortunately, that is indeed the correct final score of a Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals that is now tied up at two games each, and that still makes it seems closer than it was. Boston is now 5-0 in games following losses this postseason, and they didn’t even have DPOY Marcus Smart, who was absent tonight with a right ankle sprain he suffered in Game 3, but it didn’t matter. The Celtics were also on the right side of a huge free throw disparity, shooting 38 free throws on the night (and making 32) with the Heat going just 8-of-14 from the line. Jayson Tatum quickly got back to his superstar star ways after a miserable Game 3, leading all scorers with 31 points (8-of-16 FGs, 14-of-16 FTs) to go with eight boards, five assists, two blocks, one 3-pointer and three turnovers in 34 minutes. He made and attempted more free throws than the entire Heat team, but I don’t even think anyone can blame the refs for this one. This is the Tatum we should expect going forward but (and I don’t want to sound like a broken record) you can never truly know in this series. Derrick White started for Smart, and after scoring three points in 43 total minutes this series, he opened the game with Boston’s first seven points and finished with a 13/8/6/3/1 line with one trey and three turnovers in 41 minutes. He didn’t shoot the ball well at all, but he looked worlds better than he has all series, but expect him to see a much smaller role if Smart does indeed return for Game 5. On the heels of a playoff career-high 40 points, Jaylen Brown had a game to forget with just 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, one 3-pointer and one turnover with no defensive stats in 29 minutes, but he picked the right game to really struggle. Robert Williams needed just 19 minutes to score 12 points with nine rebounds and a pair of blocks, but that left knee still didn’t look right and he looked gimpy in the third quarter. Ime Udoka smartly got him out of there given the score, and let’s just hope the extra rest means he’s fine for Wednesday (more on this later, but he is completely shutting down Miami’s Bam Adebayo). Final starter Al Horford only scored five points and attempted just two shots, but also grabbed 13 rebounds with three dimes, four blocks, one 3-pointer and no turnovers in 33 minutes, including posting the second-best plus/minus on the team of +33 (Tatum was +37). He’s so important on both ends of the floor and if the Celtics come out of this series alive, his impact should not go overlooked whatsoever. Payton Pritchard recorded a 14/2/3/1/1 line with three triples in 25 minutes, and he played more both because of the absence of Smart and the blowout factor, while Grant Williams shot just 1-of-8 from the field for a 7/5/2 line despite playing 37 minutes.

The final numbers from the Heat starting five are as such: 18 total points on a combined 7-of-36 (19.4%) from the field. They were on the wrong end of history in various ways, including starting the game 0-of-14 from the floor, and not making a field goal until the 3:22 mark in the first quarter. This marks the longest drought without a field goal in a playoff game over the last 25 years, and Miami’s 11 points in the first quarter mark the lowest for a quarter in franchise history. Like I said, the 20-point loss doesn’t do them justice, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they opened up Game 5 with a quick 20-point lead or something like that. Bam Adebayo went back to his quiet ways with a 9/6/2 line in 28 minutes, and he was the best starter on the team in terms of points and plus/minus, which really says it all. Bam exploded for 31 points and a huge stat line in Game 3, but Robert Williams was missing from that one. In the three games Time Lord has played in this series, Bam has averaged a measly 8.3 points per game, and the one time Williams sat, Bam went nuts and fell just one point shy of his playoff career-high of 32 points. Analysis: Robert Williams is really, really good and could easily receive a DPOY Award sometime soon. Otherwise, Jimmy Butler had six points with seven boards, Kyle Lowry had three points with two blocks and P.J. Tucker and Max Strus combined for zero points on 0-of-11 shooting. Moving on. Victor Oladipo didn’t even play in the first half of Game 3, but then started the second half when Jimmy Butler was ruled out and was everywhere on defense, including notching four steals. Fast forward to Game 4, and he clearly earned his minutes, playing a team-high 30 of them of the bench and looking fantastic with 23 points (7-of-16 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs), four rebounds, six assists, four 3-pointers and just one turnover, and if you wanted to complain about something, he didn’t rack up any defensive stats, but he’s not the Heat guy to complain about on this occasion. The Heat were without Tyler Herro (left groin strain), so that could explain some of Dipo’s big night, but definitely not all of it. Herro is expected to play in Game 5, but there’s no way Oladipo is completely booted from the rotation again after being the lone bright spot on his team on Monday. Caleb Martin actually looked solid pre-garbage time and finished with 12 points on 50% shooting along with six rebounds, one assist and two triples in 25 minutes, whereas Duncan Robinson very much took advantage of garbage time and scored 14 points with four trey-bombs, four rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes. Maybe Robinson earned himself some real rotation time with some nice play when it didn’t matter, but I don’t think it’s going to change any of the defensive schemes on the Celtics’ side. Gabe Vincent scored just six inefficient points with seven dimes and two 3-pointers but was still somehow better than Lowry, Dewayne Dedmon scored seven points with a triple and that’s really all I can say about them.

Tuesday’s Game - Warriors @ Mavericks (Game 4)

The Mavericks haven’t figured out how to keep a lead in the series and are down 0-3 because of it, but it’s hard to blame them too much with how dangerous this Warriors team can be. Andrew Wiggins looks like one of the best players in this series and has been a huge X-factor thus far, and the Dubs have a chance to close out the Mavs on Tuesday and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2019 and the sixth time since 2015. The only newer injury on either side is Golden State’s Otto Porter, who was originally doubtful to play due to left foot soreness but was upgraded to questionable later on Monday. Remember, no team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit and only three teams have ever tied it up at three wins apiece (and then proceeded to lose Game 7), so the Mavericks’ odds aren’t great, but they’re sure to go out fighting. They’re going to need a lot of Luka Magic going forward and someone not named Jalen Brunson or Spencer Dinwiddie to actually be productive, which hasn’t really happened yet, but one can only hope.