The Celtics didn’t have many choices heading into Game 4.
In fact, they had two.
Boston was either going to respond to a mountain of criticism built from its own horrific play, or watch its season end at the hands of a Miami Heat squad that just seemed to want the Eastern Conference crown more. The Celtics responded about as well as anyone could have expected, keeping their season alive with a convincing win at Kaseya Center.
“I think just that poise, the trust in each other, the connectivity I think just throughout a game regardless of how the game was going, that stuff never waned,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said postgame, per NBA-provided video. “Listen, when the stakes are really high and you’re trying to achieve what we are trying to achieve, it’s easy to lose those things because the guys are playing as hard as they can.
“I just thought regardless of the result, the guys just stuck together.”
Though there’s no doubt Boston played with a team-first mentality in the win, it was certainly a lot easier with players making contributions up and down the roster. Jayson Tatum was superb, leading all scorers with 34 points and all rebounders with 11 boards. Al Horford, Derrick White and Grant Williams found their shooting strokes, combining to go 10-for-19 from beyond the arc.
The positive play was a result of the Celtics’ process, according to Mazzulla.
“I think anytime you’re in a do-or-die situation it forces you to build an awareness and perspective,” Mazzulla said. “It’s always been there, and I think just the perspective of understanding just a week ago we had it, and so it’s just fragile during these times. So, we just had to remind each other of that, and I thought the guys were pretty well connected.”
Here are some more notes from Celtics-Heat Game 4:
— Tatum made 5-of-7 shots in the fourth quarter, helping the Celtics pull away for their first win of the series. His 11 points in the frame were the first he scored in the fourth all series.
— Boston took the lead with 7:53 left in the third quarter and never relinquished it, outscoring the Heat, 64-38, to close out the game.
— The Celtics and Heat will return to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday. Tipoff from TD Garden is set for 8:30 p.m. ET. Boston opened as a 7.5-point favorite for Game 5 in Boston, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.