Boston Celtics found the keys to beat the Miami Heat in Game 4

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates a play with guard Derrick White (9) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates a play with guard Derrick White (9) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics struggled mightily in Games 1 & 3 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat. It felt like Game 4 was the Celtics last shot to come out, attack the Heat, and start figuring out the answers to some of the questions Miami was sending their way.

And boy did they ever. Boston opened the game with an 18-1 run, thanks in large part to Miami not hitting a shot from the field until there was 3:22 left in the first quarter. The Celtics led by 20+ points for most of the game, and the final 20 point deficit doesn’t accurately reflect how much of a blowout this game was.

After looking all out of sorts in Game 3, Boston finally flipped the tables and played their brand of basketball this time around. Whereas they shot lights out in Game 2 on their way to a 25 point victory, the Celtics didn’t play a great offensive game this time around, which makes it seem like they actually figured out how they can beat Miami in this series.

The Boston Celtics cannot turn the ball over and give the Miami Heat free points

Boston’s two losses were largely the result of the C’s being careless with the ball. They turned the ball over a laughable amount, and the Heat would almost always cash in for free points. In Game 4, Boston finally decided that taking care of the ball was actually an important piece of their game.

Not only does holding onto the ball prevent Miami from getting free runs at the basket on the other end, it forces them to run their half court offense more than they want to. The Heat are at their best when their stifling defense forces their opponent to make bad plays, and they can fly out in transition or on the fastbreak for easy buckets. In Game 4, there were no easy buckets for Miami.

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Considering their starting lineup only combined to score 18 total points, it’s not a stretch to say the Heat have become overly reliant on translating their defense to offense. When Boston got setup on defense, it was a wash. Miami was rarely getting open looks, and when they did, they were unable to hit them.

Aside from Bam Adebayo‘s Game 3 outing, nobody in Miami has seemed to be capable of stepping up and taking some of the pressure of their star wing, Jimmy Butler. Butler is also laboring through a right knee injury that flared up in Game 3, and clearly hampered him in Game 4, as he shot just 3-14 from the field.

Miami doesn’t have the half court offense to be able to take down a defense as good as Boston’s. They are banking on them to give them free points, and in Games 1 & 3, that gamble paid off. But the Celtics figured out that even if they shoot poorly as they did in Game 4 (they only shot 39.7 percent from the field) if they don’t give the Heat easy buckets, they aren’t going to have much success on offense.

The Boston Celtics need Robert Williams on the court for the rest of the series

With all due respect to everyone on the Boston Celtics, Robert Williams showed why he is the most important player on either team in this series. He only played 19 minutes, but his impact was hard to miss, and if he can play the rest of the series, the C’s will be in a great spot.

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Remember Adebayo’s 31 point game in Game 3? That was the only game Williams has missed this series. It’s also the only time Adebayo has shown up this series. In the three games Williams has played in, Adebayo has mostly been a spectator.

The Heat have had virtually no paint offense when Williams is on the floor. The Celtics are sticking him in the corner to lurk off of P.J. Tucker, which worked like a charm in Game 4. They don’t want to go in the paint because chances are Williams is going to swat their shot into the stands. On the other hand, Tucker looks like he’s open, but Williams would just shift back to the corner and scare Tucker into getting rid of the ball.

Offensively, Williams helps open up the paint because of how Miami likes to play defense. The Heat love to switch and rotate on defense when the ball moves, and part of what makes that a possibility is becaue of Adebayo’s versatility. But the Heat have run small lineups out on the court a lot this series, and if Adebayo leaves Williams, there’s no one else who can cover him, leading to simple lobs where Williams is wide open.

When Williams is used as a screener, Miami cannot ignore him on his rolls to the hoop. This helped out Jayson Tatum a ton last night, as he just kept rolling to the rim and getting fouled. He took 16 trips to the free throw line, which was more than the Heat took as a team. Tatum had no jumpshot to speak of last night, so his ability to hit his shots in the paint and at the line was crucial, and a large reason he was getting these looks was because of Williams.

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This isn’t to say the series is over, because as we have seen in this series, Boston can just decide to throw the game away if they want to. But it feels like for the first time this series, they finally figured out how to beat Miami.

With all the chaos that has taken place in this series, it feels like Game 5 will go a long way to determining who is the Eastern Conference’s representative in the NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics have all the momentum shifted in their corner right now, and if they can replicate their performance from Game 4 in Game 5, they will have a chance to clinch a Finals berth in front of their home crowd on Friday night.