The Boston Celtics are not ready to start their vacation just yet.
In fact, their convincing performance on Tuesday suggests they are serious in their bid to spark a comeback in the Eastern Conference finals.
Jayson Tatum collected 33 points and 11 rebounds as the visiting Celtics staved off elimination with a 116-99 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 4.
Tatum made 14 of 22 shot attempts from the floor — including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. He also had seven assists for the second-seeded Celtics, who trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series heading into Thursday’s Game 5 in Boston.
“Don’t let us win one” was a refrain uttered by Celtics guards Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown during Tuesday’s shootaround. After the contest, Smart already was focused on Game 5.
“Now we just have to go win another one, that’s all that matters,” said Smart, who finished with 11 points. “We’re taking one game at a time. We understand that the odds are stacked against us, but we’re a team that believes in us no matter what, and all that matters is the next game.”
Brown scored 17 points and Derrick White added 16 to help the Celtics prevent Miami from becoming the second eighth-seeded team to advance to the NBA Finals. The 1998-99 New York Knicks accomplished the feat during a lockout-shortened season.
Grant Williams scored 14 points off the bench and Al Horford added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics, who turned the tide by outscoring the Heat 38-23 in the third quarter.
“No pressure. No pressure at all,” Horford said with a laugh, per NBC Sports Boston. “It’s on them. We’re playing pretty free right now.”
Boston shot 51.2 percent from the floor (43 of 84) for the game and 40 percent from 3-point range (18 of 45).
“We have to keep that same level of intensity, same mindset, same focus for the next game,” said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, two days after he pointed the finger at himself following his team’s lackluster 128-102 loss in Game 3.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler overcame a slow start to record 29 points and nine rebounds. Butler was quick to disagree when a reporter asked if the momentum is now with Boston.
“No. If anything, it will build momentum for us, knowing we have to play with a lot more energy,” he said. “We have to play like our backs are against the wall. All year long we’ve been better when we have to do things the hard way.”
Gabe Vincent scored 17 points and Caleb Martin added 16 off the bench for the Heat, who fell to 6-1 at home in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Martin said. “That would have been a perfect situation (to end it). Everyone knows we typically don’t get things the easy way.”
Down by 11 points late in the third quarter, Miami trimmed the deficit to five before Boston countered by scoring 12 straight points to secure a 100-83 lead with 7:25 to play in the fourth. Tatum and Smart each had five points during that surge.
The Heat moved within 13 with 4:27 to play before Brown converted a three-point play to halt the momentum. The Celtics were not seriously threatened the rest of the way.
Max Strus sank a 3-pointer to stake Miami to a 61-52 lead early in the third quarter before Boston ignited an 18-0 run. Tatum converted twice from beyond the arc and added a jumper during that sequence.
The Heat pulled within 81-77 before Tatum made a jumper and a layup and Williams sank his fourth 3-pointer of the night.
–Field Level Media
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