NBA fans – put the brooms back in the cupboard. Following the Los Angeles Lakers being swept out of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets, the Boston Celtics were keen to avoid meeting the same fate as their long-time rivals.
Led by Jayson Tatum, the Celtics managed to get a win on the board in Game 4 of their playoff series against the Miami Heat with a 116-99 victory.
Coming into the game 3-0 down and with an unprecedented mountain to climb, Boston players repeated lines that have been said since time immemorial by players facing the same deficit.
“I feel very good about tonight. Don’t let us get one,” Marcus Smart warned the Heat pregame.
Teammate Jaylen Brown issued a similar line, adding “Don’t let us get one. Don’t let us get tonight.”
While no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, there is no saying that this Celtics team won’t be the first to do it – the 17-point victory providing a serious warning to the Heat contingent.
With both teams knowing what was at stake, the more relaxed Heat got off to the better start in Game 4. Miami quickly raced to a 29-23 lead after the opening 12 minutes and maintained the six-point advantage heading into the half.
With the series on the line and nothing to lose, the Celtics came out flying in the third quarter and seized complete control. Boston outscored Miami 38-23 in a big third quarter with Tatum leading the Celtics rally.
Tatum has had his fair share of troubles against the Heat’s smothering defense throughout the series, but the four-time All-Star was at his very best in Game 4.
The All-NBA First Team forward is almost impossible to stop when he reaches this form and scored 33 points to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the win.
Tatum’s counterpart, Jimmy Butler, had one of his quieter nights of the series as – by his incredibly high standards – he struggled to get it going.
“Playoff Jimmy” scored 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting as the Celtics stepped up their defense on the star of the series so far.
“Big win. Anytime you get the win in the Playoffs, it means a lot,” Brown said following Game 4. “Definitely with our backs against the wall, we didn’t want to go out like that. So we galvanized last night and we wanted to come out and win, and to be able to come out and execute and do it is big.”
“We didn’t play well the first three games, we didn’t deserve to win, but we didn’t want that to define us, define the season,” added Tatum. “We’ve still got a long uphill battle to go. But tonight was a good start.”
It is unclear whether the Celtics’ players pregame warnings will come true, but with Joe Mazzulla’s young team performing as a coherent unit, this series could possibly go the distance.