MIAMI – In Tuesday morning’s shootout ahead of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, Marcus Smart he had a message for Miami Heat:
“Don’t let us take one,” Smart said. “Don’t let us take one.”
It made sense, as the Celtics entered Game 4 in a 3-0 hole in the best-of-7 series — a deficit that 150 teams in NBA history have faced and not one of them has overcome. recovered from.
But, a few hours later, Smart and the Celtics followed through on their part of the trade, claiming a 116-99 victory over Miami, sending the series back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday and the Celtics are now three more wins away from the record.
“Now we just got another win,” Smart said after finishing with 11 points and six assists in 35 minutes. “That’s all it takes. We’re taking it one game at a time. We understand that we’re going to have to face challenges, but we’re a team that believes in us no matter what, and we have to keep going, that’s all. what matters is the next game.”
Boston found itself in a 3-0 hole coming into Game 4 as it repeatedly failed to come out of trouble. The Celtics lost in both games 1 and 2, then were blown out in the Kaseya Center in game 3.
Game 4, however, was a completely different story. Boston trailed by nine late in the first quarter Caleb Martin 3-pointer. The Celtics trailed by nine in the third quarter minutes later Max Struss 3-pointer 90 seconds into the second half. Then, after missing the first four shots and committing three fouls in the first 2:19 of the fourth quarter, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla called timeout with the Celtics leading 88-83 and the game teetering on a knife’s edge.
But in both cases, Boston responded. The Celtics went on a 17-5 run after Martin’s triple to lead the second quarter. Boston went on an 18-0 run over four minutes into the third after a Strus 3-pointer. And, after Mazzella’s layoff early in the fourth, Boston scored Jayson Tatum basket on the next play — Tatum’s first and fourth field goal of the series — to start a 12-0 run that put the game away.
“I think just staying calm, trusting each other, the connection I think you have in the game no matter how the game is going, things are never over,” Mazzula said. “Listen, when things are so high and you’re trying to achieve what we want to achieve, it’s easy to lose those things because those guys are playing as hard as they can.
“I just thought regardless of the outcome, those guys just stuck together.”
One of the reasons Boston was able to stick together, according to Jaylen Brownit came out of a team discussion Monday afternoon after a heartbreaking loss in Game 3 sent the Celtics to the brink of bankruptcy.
“Just coming together, talking,” Brown said. “And like most times when you get to this point 3-0, you see locker rooms and teams start going in the opposite direction. We want to make sure we stay together. We wanted to make sure we look each other in the eye and come out today and put our foot forward, and I’m proud of our team.” that it will because you see teams with their backs against the wall and you see them falling.
“You didn’t see that tonight. You saw us come together, play defense, make the right plays, and I feel like that shows a lot of our character, especially in games where everything is on the line and everything has gone wrong. in the last couple of games.”
It also didn’t hurt that the Celtics — and, in particular, Tatum — dropped shots. Boston entered the game shooting 31-for-106 (29.2 percent) from three-point range in the first three games, compared to 44-for-92 (47.8 percent) for Miami.
“I still think we can shoot the ball a lot better,” said Brown, who had 16 points despite also struggling from deep, going 1-for-5 from behind the arc. t enter, but tomorrow, the next game is a new game. I feel like if we continue to have confidence, if we continue to see the ball go through the net, I think we will feel good. “
Meanwhile, Tatum went 11-for-15 from the field in the second half, scored 25 points and had just one turnover after having eight points and four turnovers in the first quarter.
Tatum had 14 of Boston’s 38 points in the third, helping the Celtics outscore the Heat 38-23 in the frame to turn a six-minute deficit into a 9-point lead. and jump in the elbow.
“They play in a zone, and to be honest we struggled in that zone the first couple of games,” Tatum said of Miami’s defense early in the fourth quarter, when the Heat held the Celtics scoreless for more than two minutes with Tatum in the game. bench. “So, it was like we stopped. So, when I came back, they just made a play to start moving, find open space, and play well.”
Now, when the series returns to Boston, the Celtics will take the first step in making history.
The next one will need 48 minutes like another Thursday in Boston.
“We want to get back to Miami,” Brown said.