In what was a complete script-flip from the start of Game 3, a straight-up horrendous start from the Heat in Game 4 gave the Celtics the only opening they needed in a 20-point, wire-to-wire win over Miami at TD Garden.
And make no mistake about it, that 102-82 final score made this one seem way closer than it ever was, to be honest.
On the board with 18 of the first 19 points of the evening, the Celtics watched with glee as the Heat got off to an impossibly bad 0-for-14 start from the floor, and carried an 18-point edge into the second quarter. The Celtics did it with authority, too, as they out-rebounded the Heat by a 20-to-8 mark, and got to the free throw line 12 times by the quarter’s end.
Oh, and there was also a sweet tone-setting jam from Jayson Tatum off a sweet lob from Derrick White.
Aided by Miami’s continued struggles, the Celtics refused to take their foot off the gas, and ballooned their lead out to 24 points by halftime. And in the second quarter, it was once again Boston’s free-throw domination that bailed ’em out, with makes on 12 of their 14 tries from the free throw line, while the Heat managed to get to the line just three times in the frame.
From there, the Celtics were on cruise control and the Heat failed to take advantage with a surge of any sort, which ultimately allowed C’s head coach Ime Udoka to rest almost all of his starters in the fourth quarter.
Tatum finished with a game-high 31 points on an 8-for-16 shooting night, while Al Horford stuffed the stat sheet with five points, three assists, four blocks, and a Celtics-high 13 rebounds in 33:04 of play.
Miami finished the night with just 18 points from their starting lineup, which was the fewest points by any starting lineup in an NBA playoff game since 1970-71, according to ESPN.
The Celtics played this contest without Marcus Smart, as the swelling in Smart’s foot and ankle proved to be too much to overcome. Robert Williams III, who entered Monday with a ‘questionable’ designation due to a knee injury, suited up and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in 18:38.
The Heat, meanwhile, were forced to play Game 4 without Tyler Herro available.
Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Miami.