The Boston Celtics rose to their feet, spit out the blood, wiped their mouths, and got back to fighting in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat. Down 3-0 after getting the snot knocked out of them on Sunday night, they got their first win of the series with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown playing much more like their All-NBA selves.
Both were huge in the second half with some key plays. Brown was able to get to the rim and draw some fouls in the fourth quarter. Tatum played by far his best game of the series. He found his offense and scored 27 of his 33 points in the second half. The Celtics won 116-99 to push the series to Game 5.
Tatum playing like the best player was a welcome change for the Celtics in this series. Even though he scored 30 or more points in Game 1 and 2, he didn’t score a single fourth-quarter point in the Eastern Conference Finals until Tuesday night. His 12 in the fourth helped put the lead out of reach.
Jaylen Brown was C’s most consistent player pre-ECF
As well as he has played at moments in these playoffs, before the conference finals began the Celtics’ most consistent player was Brown. Through two rounds he was averaging 24.6 points per game on 54.1/47.1/69.8 shooting splits.
Brown scored 22 points in the Celtics’ Game 1 loss, but only four came after the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter. He took a spill when his left elbow crashed into Bam Adebayo on a drive, and as he hit the ground the Heat’s big man fell on his right hand. A hand that Brown had stitched up after an accident that took place at his home 10 days before the start of the playoffs. Brown clutched his elbow after the hit, and with 4:47 remaining in the final quarter Turner Sports’ Allie LaForce reported that the wound had reopened and the bleeding was substantial.
In the next two games, Brown shot less than 36 percent from the field, and went a combined 1-14 from the 3-point line. With Brown’s offense tanking after the injury, and Tatum’s fourth-quarter goose eggs, the Celtics’ offense has not been able to perform well enough to contend with Heat’s net scorching shooting. They shot 54.3 percent from three as a team in that Game 3, 128-102 blowout.
Miami goes cold
A cold snap went through the Heat’s scintillating offense in Game 4. The Heat shot 25 percent from behind the arc while the Celtics were in the groove from long range, shooting 40 percent from back there as a team. Combine that with Heat’s 15 turnovers — four consecutive during one stretch in the third quarter — the night belonged to the men in the green jerseys.
Surely the Celtcs breathed a momentary sigh of relief after the final buzzer, but their biggest problem has not been solved. Most of Brown’s 17 points came at the rim, including several fast breaks. He was 1-of-5 from the 3-point line.
The Celtics have been forced to attempt to accomplish what appears to be impossible. For them to turn this series into a Tom Cruise franchise by coming back from a 3-0 deficit, they need their second-best player to be a factor shooting the basketball. Brown scores on slashes and jump shots. His ball-handling deficiencies do not allow him to serve as a playmaker when his shot is not falling.
He has 48 hours to try and get his upper extremities in order. If he can’t, the Celtics’ season will end on Thursday night.