MIAMI — The Celtics live to see another day. Boston beat Miami, 116-99, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals to avoid the sweep.
In a contest that called for Jayson Tatum to play like he did throughout the regular season, the Celtics star stepped up. He scored 14 points in the third quarter and 12 more in the fourth to finish with a game-high 33 points on 14-for-22 shooting.
Boston began the second half down six. They finished the third quarter up, 88-79. The Heat managed to cut Boston’s lead to 5 with Jimmy Butler (and Tatum) on the bench to start the fourth quarter. The Celtics went on a 12-0 run after Tatum re-entered the game.
Boston shot 42.2 percent from three while Miami’s sharpshooters cooled off, scoring just 26.7 percent from the arc. Gabe Vincent, who had the game of his life on Sunday, scored 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting. The Heat were led by Butler, who finished with 29 points on 9-for-21 shooting.
The series stands at 3-1. With their season still alive, the Celtics will return to TD Garden for Game 5 on Thursday.
Read more about the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Heat
- Dan Shaughnessy: Celtics got their first win over Heat, and Kevin Millar knows anything can happen now
- Instant analysis: The Celtics found their stroke from 3, showed some fight, and kept their season alive
Celtics-Heat: Game 4 how it happened
Looking ahead to Game 5 — 12:00 a.m.
The Celtics are opening as 8-point favorites for Game 5.
But Boston is also 4-5 at home this postseason.
How about those odds now? — 11:35 p.m.
Alex Speier dived into the numbers to explore what happens when teams go down 3-0 in the NBA playoffs. As we all know by now, no team has rallied to win four straight to advance in 150 tries.
Of those 150 teams, 92 (61 percent) got broomed away into four-game oblivion. Now that the Celtics have avoided that ...
• Forty-four of the 150 teams (29 percent) avoided the sweep but got dispatched in Game 5.
• Eleven of the 150 teams (7 percent) claimed two wins before getting eliminated in Game 6.
• Three of the 150 teams (2 percent) forced a Game 7 and then lost.
Finn’s final take — 11:30 p.m.
CF: As for tonight, wasn’t that how we expected the series to go from the beginning? Jayson Tatum was spectacular after a 5-point first quarter, finishing with 33 points (on 14 of 22 shooting), 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. The Celtics amped up and maintained their defensive intensity, and Heat role players finally missed some shots (Martin, Robinson, Strus, Lowry and Vincent combined to 5 of 23 from 3). Grant Williams (4 3-pointers) was excellent, Derrick White (16 points) stabilized things in the first half, and for the first in the series, they looked like the version of the Celtics that has won 65 games this season (in total), rather than the one that had lost the first three in this series. The Celtics play on. See you right here Thursday.
Mazzulla’s timeout strategy made sense — 11:25 p.m.
Joe Mazzulla has taken heat for his use of timeouts this season, but he did a nice job Tuesday. On one possession, Brown was trapped in the corner with about nine seconds on the shot clock in a play that was going nowhere. Mazzulla used a timeout, regrouped, and the Celtics got a Tatum 3-pointer. Then Mazzulla used another after the Heat scored the first 4 points of the fourth to pull within 88-83. The Celtics got a nice Tatum 15-footer out of a set play, then a steal led to a Brown dunk. — Adam Himmelsbach
Shaughnessy on Game 4 — 11:20 p.m.
What now? Does Kevin Millar come to the Garden Thursday with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s?
It’s only one game, but the Celtics crawled out of a hole Tuesday and finally beat the Heat, 116-99, to stay alive in their Eastern Conference final series. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were at the game and I’m hoping some wiseguy asked the Captain if he believes a team from Boston can win four straight after trailing three games to none.
Between now and Thursday, the Celtics and their fans will be reminding everyone that the 2004 Red Sox turned that trick against the Yankees in 2004.
This must be some kind of omen — 11:15 p.m.
CF: How did Kevin Millar put it? “Don’t let us win today. Because we got Pedey tomorrow ...” All I’m saying is that the Celtics had better have Pedro Martinez in the building.
On Al Horford’s night — 11:10 p.m.
Al Horford had an unusually lengthy 3-point shooting workout Tuesday morning, clearly focused on snapping out of his long-range slump. He drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner on the Celtics’ first possession and finished the game 3 for 6, including one miss that went all the way in and out.
Horford had not made more than two 3-pointers in a game since his 5-for-7 night in the Game 3 win over the 76ers in the conference semifinals. It was a bit surprising, however, that he played just 12 minutes, 42 seconds in the opening half. Joe Mazzulla seemed to prefer Robert Williams’s defense on Bam Adebayo. Horford was plus-5 in the first half, while Williams was minus-11. — Adam Himmelsbach
Adam Himmelsbach’s instant analysis — 11:00 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
On the verge of a humiliating sweep that would have ignited significant questions about this team’s future, the Celtics on Tuesday kept their season and their championship dreams alive for at least one more game, as they rolled to a 116-99 win over the Heat in Game 4 of these conference finals.
Game 5 will be played at TD Garden on Thursday night, as the Celtics continue their quest to become the first team ever to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
The Celtics used an 18-0 run to flip a nine-point third-quarter deficit into a nine-point lead. And after the Heat pulled within five at the start of the fourth, a 12-0 Boston surge all but put the game away.
The Celtics, who were pummeled by Miami’s unusually scorching 3-point shooting at the start of this series, saved their season by regaining their stroke from beyond the arc while turning off Miami’s faucet. The Celtics connected on 19 of 45 3-pointers and the Heat were just 8 for 31.
Jayson Tatum shook off a quiet first half and finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists to lead Boston. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 29 points, but received little help as the outside shooters who had been outperforming hit a cold spell.
Tatum’s 26-point second half — 10:57 p.m.
Tatum had 8 points at the end of the first half. He finished with 34.
Most 25-point playoff halves since 1997:— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) May 24, 2023
Celtics win — 10:54 p.m.
Jayson Tatum finishes with a game-high 34 points.
Two-minute warning — 10:48 p.m.
It’s 109-95, Celtics.
Celtics 105, Heat 89 — 10:45 p.m.
Celtics 105, Heat 89 | 3:40, fourth quarter
NY: The Celtics look like the Heat and the Heat now look like the Celtics.
CF: Celtics were starting to have some issues with pace, but Jaylen just got a bucket plus 1 (and made the FT!) to build the lead back to 16.
Jayson Tatum lights up — 10:40 p.m.
CF: Celtics on a 12-0 run since Tatum returned.
KT: He’s humbly playing like one of the best players again.
Celtics 97, Heat 83 — 10:37 p.m.
Celtics 97, Heat 83 | 7:52, fourth quarter
Tatum taking over — 27 points on 11-17 shooting.
The difference in Tatum's confidence when the Celtics are rolling and when they're not is wild.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 24, 2023
They're rolling now, and his swagger level is on a 10.
Celtics 92, Heat 83 — 10:33 p.m.
Celtics 92, Heat 83 | 9:04, fourth quarter
NY: Great response from the Celtics coming out of the timeout. Their lead is back up to 9 with 9:04 to go.
Celtics 88, Heat 83 — 10:29 p.m.
Celtics 88, Heat 83 | 9:41, fourth quarter
CR: Annnnnnnd time for Tatum to come back in.
NY: Heat manage to cut Boston’s lead to 5 with Jimmy Butler on the bench. I’m guessing he will check back in now. Same with Tatum. Also of note: Celtics have already committed 3 fouls with 9:41 to go. I imagine Butler will try to get his team in the bonus ASAP.
NY: Tatum is coming back in, but still no Butler for the Heat.
NY: And now Butler is at the scorer’s table.
Celtics 88, Heat 81 — 10:24 p.m.
Celtics 88, Heat 81 | 10:08, fourth quarter
NY: The Heat are probably going to rue the first half if they do end up losing. Given Boston’s low energy, it felt as though they could have really put them away.
KT: The Celtics have finally been able to answer those runs and steady the ship whenever they’ve been challenged.
Fourth quarter underway — 10:22 p.m.
CF: Tatum is now up to 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting. He’s played 33:31. I wouldn’t sit him for another second.
NY: Jimmy Butler rests to start the fourth with his down down 9. I wonder how long the Heat can afford to sit him.
End of third quarter: Celtics 88, Heat 79 — 10:18 p.m.
CR: Tatum is doing his best Caleb Martin impression. Nothing but net. 22 points for the Celtics forward.
NY: Jayson Tatum really stepped up this quarter. Fourteen points on 6 of 8 shooting to build Boston’s lead.
CF: Every time Grant Williams hits a shot, I wonder why Mazzulla buried him for so long.
KT: Maybe Sunday was the Game 3 beatdown the Celtics needed … You know, their version of 19-8 in ‘04?
Celtics 81, Heat 75 — 10:14 p.m.
Celtics 81, Heat 75 | 2:04 third quarter
CR: Celtics now shooting 44.2% from 3-point range. That’ll do.
KT: Van Gundy: “This is the way Boston has played most of the year.”
NY: Jimmy Butler just got to the line for free throws, but he really wanted the foul call to be on Jayson Tatum because that would have been Tatum’s fourth. Jaylen Brown is already on the bench with four fouls. Instead, the call was on Robert Williams.
CF: Butler so smart. Taking command of the offense now that their perimeter shooters have cooled off. Seeking and attacking.
Celtics 73, Heat 68 — 10:09 p.m.
Heat 73, Celtics 68 | 4:35, third quarter
NY: Bam Adebayo picked up his fourth foul with 5:49 to go in the third. Cody Zeller is checking in for Bam, so if the Celtics can’t maintain (or extend) their 8-point lead with Zeller on the floor, then they deserve to lose.
KT: Seriously guys … box out.
It’s all coming up Celtics — 10:06 p.m.
NY: Celtics will be in the bonus for the final 6:24 of the third. Also, Gabe Vincent just picked up his fourth foul. It’s all coming up Celtics.
Celtics 68, Heat 61 — 10:04 p.m.
Celtics 68, Heat 61 | 6:50, third quarter
CF: Just showed the celebs on the broadcast. Nicole or Katie, can one of you go tell Jeter that Nomar is better? Thanks in advance.
NY: And now the Celtics’ shots are falling. 16-0 run now to take a 7-point lead and prompt Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout.
CR: If I were the Celtics I’d simply keep playing defense.
CF: Interesting theory, Conor. Have you thought of becoming a veteran assistant coach for the Celtics? Sometimes, they could use someone like you.
Heat 61, Celtics 58 — 9:58 p.m.
Heat 61, Celtics 58 | 8:27, third quarter
NY: It’s weird because the Celtics are not playing particularly inspiring basketball, but they are very much in this game. I thought the Heat might start to pull away when they went up by 9 to open the third quarter, but back-to-back Jayson Tatum threes have the Celtics within three again.
CF: Miami is actually missing shots for the first time in this series. 2 for 8 in this quarter.
Heat 61, Celtics 52 — 9:52 p.m.
Heat 61, Celtics 52 | 10:20, third quarter
KT: Anybody feel like boxing out tonight? No? Yikes.
CF: Why start now?
What should we expect in the second half? — 9:45 pm.
CF: Feel like Miami has them right where they want them, unfortunately. A small lead that could become a big one with one run and break the Celtics spirit. But maybe Tatum will go off in the second half or some of the secondary guys like Horford and White will pick up the slack.
NY: Something like this ⬆️ isn’t going to curry much favor with the refs. No wonder the review was so short.
CR: “The Celtics ... they’re not mentally tough.” — Charles Barkley
KT: Barkley raises an interesting point. Says the Celtics played just hard enough so you can’t say they quit, but lacked the anger, desperation, and fire that would inspire you to think they’re actually going to win.
CF: Heat have six more made free throws. And a six-point lead.
NY: As I watch the Bus One boys warm up coming out of halftime, it’s still kind of perplexing to me that Joe Mazzulla completely cut out Sam Hauser from the playoff rotation after the first round. Given Boston’s shooting struggles this series, why not at least give him a chance? Especially since Pritchard got minutes in Game 1.
KT: I get that you need to have a tight rotation in the playoffs, but Mazzulla sticking with seven or eight guys when the Celtics are supposedly the deepest team in basketball seems wild to me. Depth was supposed to be a major strength for this squad.
NY: Sounds kind of familiar ... like having two really good goalies ... and then not using a rotation in the playoffs.
KM: Joe Mazzulla did go to a couple Bruins-Panthers games …
CR: joe mazzulla jim montgomery
overthinking things against an 8-seed
What to make of the Celtics in the first half — 9:40 p.m.
NY: The Celtics enter the half down 6, which honestly seems fortunate. That deficit is obviously overcome-able.
Surprised Horford played just 13 minutes that half given how he was shooting.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 24, 2023
CF: Miami cooled off from 3 (5 for 16) but shot 20 of 38 overall. The Celtics’ defensive intensity improved and was pretty consistent. Now they need to shoot better. They’re 18 of 40, and 9 of 25 from 3. They’ve done a nice job on the boards. I’m OK with it if Marcus Smart retires from 3-point shooting at halftime.
CR: Celtics showing some fight — but it’s a telling statement that Caleb “Steph Curry” Martin (14 points) has nearly outscored both Brown and Tatum (15 total points).
KT: Better vibes than Game 3 for sure. Horford hit some big threes. So did Grant. The Celtics seem to be playing hard in general. Need Malcolm Brogdon to hit shots if he’s going to continue to play. Derrick White is making things happen, and the Jays are playing decent. Caleb Martin is absolutely killing them though.
At the half: Heat 56, Celtics 50 — 9:34 p.m.
Derrick White leads the Celtics with 11 points. Jaylen Brown has 8, and Jayson Tatum has 7.
Heat 56, Celtics 50 — 9:31 p.m.
Heat 56, Celtics 50 | 46.7, second quarter
NY: Grant Williams hits a big three over a late contest from Jimmy Butler, and makes the smart decision to keep his mouth shut on his way back down the court.
CF: Celtics have 13 fouls, Heat 6.
KM: Caleb Martin leads all scorers with 14 after that shot.
NY: Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, and Jayson Tatum all just got really fired up at the referees again. I’m sure exactly what happened, but it involved Max Strus. Officials initiated a review for a hostile act, but the review was extremely short and revealed no hostile act.
KT: Tatum ran into Strus. Couldn’t stop his momentum chasing after the boards and slammed into him.
Heat 50, Celtics 44 — 9:27 p.m.
Heat 50, Celtics 44 | 3:00, second quarter
KM: After Derrick White turns the ball over, Jaylen Brown picks up two personal fouls in 10 seconds. Gabe Vincent sinks all three of his foul shots to put the Heat up.
NY: Derrick White and Jaylen Brown join the crew of Celtics with two fouls. There’s only 2:25 to go in the half, so probably won’t end up being consequential. Marcus Smart keeps having extended conversations with the referees, though. It definitely seems like the Celtics are frustrated with some of the calls.
Heat 43, Celtics 42 — 9:21 p.m.
Heat 43, Celtics 42 | 5:15, second quarter
KM: Joe Mazzulla calls a timeout after Caleb Martin hits his second three-pointer and gives the Heat the lead back.
Celtics 37, Heat 34 — 9:15 p.m.
Celtics 37, Heat 34 | 7:46, second quarter
CF: A lot of players slipping and falling.
NY: Al Horford misses a three, but great effort play from Derrick White to get the offensive rebound, bank in the putback, and draw an offensive foul.
CR: It’s almost like good defense leads to quality looks down the other end of the court. Williams sinks the 3-pointer
KT: What a concept.
NY: Celtics show some fight and go on a 17-5 run to lead by three midway through the second quarter, after trailing by as many as 9 in the first.
CF: Terrific stretch of play from Derrick White: offensive rebound and immediate putback plus-1, some lockdown D, and then makes a wise decision on a break and feeds Grant Williams as the trailer for a go-ahead 3. He had quasi 2-on-1 with Tatum, but Duncan Robinson shaded to Tatum and took away the look. Really savvy decision by White.
NY: Jayson Tatum/Al Horford/Grant Williams all have two fouls, so it will be interesting to watch how Joe Mazzulla responds should one pick up his third. I think he’s possible he just lets them play.
CF: Not necessarily a bad thing for him to be forced to play Rob more.
Foul trouble — 9:10 p.m.
Grant, Tatum and Horford all with two fouls now. Something to watch.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 24, 2023
Heat 33, Celtics 29 — 9:07 p.m.
Heat 33, Celtics 29 | 9:27, second quarter
NY: To Chad’s previous point, the past two Celtics possessions had no passes and ended with Malcolm Brogdon missing a bunny at the rim.
KT: Al Horford is keeping them in this game with his 3-point shooting.
CR: Malcolm Brogdon has now missed his last 10 shots, going back to Game 3.
NY: Al Horford is now 3 of 4 from three. His shooting spark would be huge for the Celtics if it continues.
End of first quarter: Heat 29, Celtics 23 — 9:01 p.m.
KT: Heck of a play by Rob Williams helping Brogdon out on Butler and swatting away a floater. Williams is coming off the bench tonight, but his defensive presence will be needed.
NY: That Robert Williams dunk was Boston’s first points since Cody Zeller checked in three minutes ago. The Celtics have to pick on Zeller more.
CF: The Zeller thing drives me nuts. He’s no better than Muscala or Kornet. If those two were in the game for the Celtics, the Heat would figure out a way to eat them alive.
Heat 24, Celtics 18 — 8:55 p.m.
Heat 24, Celtics 18 | 2:29, first quarter
NY: Hard to gauge these things from afar, but I agree with Adam that Tatum does not seem locked in. We’ll see if things change once he starts making shots.
CF: I get on Jaylen for being a ball-stopper, but Brogdon is right there with him.
NY: It seems like Brogdon sometimes gets tunnel vision.
CF: He overpassed on those drives early in the season to the point that defenses were sitting on his kick-out passes. Now he doesn’t make the pass hardly ever.
Heat 22, Celtics 15 — 8:50 p.m.
Heat 22, Celtics 15 | 4:06, first quarter
NY: With two turnovers this quarter, Jayson Tatum now has an assist/turnover ratio that’s less than one this series. Twelve assists to 14 turnovers. Jaylen Brown’s is not much better: 11 assists to 11 turnovers.
KT: Meanwhile Marcus Smart has 22 assists to 7 turnovers. Remember when Jimmy Butler said the Celtics need to use him more?
CF: Charles Barkley picks the Heat. “Yeahhh, this is our last game,” he says. (The Finals are on ESPN exclusively.) Barkley is always wrong, so this bodes well for the Celtics.
KM: Cody Zeller is in.
CR: Zeller going to drop 40-10-5 tonight.
NY: Another turnover for Jayson Tatum, which prompts Joe Mazzulla to call a timeout. Marcus Smart spent some time talking to Scott Foster during the break. Celtics have three team fouls to Miami’s zero.
CR: Make that three turnovers for Tatum in eight minutes.
CF: Tatum is on pace for 18.4 turnovers.
Heat 12, Celtics 12 — 8:43 p.m.
Heat 12, Celtics 12 | 6:17, first quarter
CF: That little Jaylen step-through is him at his best. The big frustration with him in Game 3 was the forced 3s when he was struggling. Attack the paint.
NY: Jimmy Butler is not scared of Derrick White, who fully deserved his All-Defense honors.
CR: I grimace when Jaylen Brown starts dribbling.
NY: 12-12 midway through the first. I do think if the Heat build a sizable lead, Boston’s effort may wane. I’m not sure how many counter punches they have in them.
KT: Tatum has dribbled it off his foot a couple times. He’s got to tighten that handle up.
CF: Butler just physically overpowers White. I wish the Celtics would could figure out a way to resist that switch a little more. Jaylen is an inch shorter and 7 pounds lighter than Butler. Haven’t seen him matched up with him often.
Tatum with two turnovers in 22 seconds.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 24, 2023
Celtics 10, Heat 8 — 8:38 p.m.
Celtics 10, Heat 8 | 8:00, first quarter
CR: The Celtics ... are hitting 3s?
CF: Is that allowed?
NY: Headed into the game, I thought a good start would be crucial for the Celtics. The first two minutes are going well, with both Al Horford and Derrick White knocking down threes. The players are also playing with stronger defensive intensity.
Celtics 5, Heat 3 — 8:34 p.m.
Celtics 5, Heat 3 | 10:31, first quarter
KM: Al Horford hits his first 3.
NY: He hit his first last game and went 2 of 5.
And we’re off ... — 8:32 p.m.
Derrick White is back in the starting lineup in lieu of Rob Williams.
A look back at the Celtics’ history rallying in the playoffs — 8:25 p.m.
Some notes, courtesy of Alex Speier, about the Celtics in the playoffs.
• The only Celtics team to go from down 3-0 to a sixth game did so as a No. 7 seed. The 2012-13 Celtics — the last hurrah of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — lost three straight games to open their series against the Knicks, but roared back with wins in Games 4 and 5. Alas, everything was not possible, and the Celtics were eliminated in Game 6.
• There are five other instances (prior to this year) of the Celtics falling behind in a series 3-0. In four of those, they were swept; in the other, they won Game 4 but got bounced in Game 5.
Of course, the 2004 Red Sox and a quartet of NHL teams (yes, including the 2010 Flyers, at the expense of the Bruins) illuminate that some sliver of hope remains intact for playoff teams that face four straight win-or-go-home games.
Predictions for tonight — 8:20 p.m.
NY: I said before Game 3 that I would keep picking the Celtics until they lose, so I’m going to stick with that. We’ll see if they have any pride. Plus, the Celtics are 4-1 this postseason when wearing their green “icon” jerseys, as they are tonight.
CF: I like this team. I’m not ready for this season to end. But if I’m being honest, I think it will. The Celtics will lead in the third quarter and early into the fourth, but the Heat will put together a disciplined run, and the Celtics will fall into bad habits — careless protection of the basketball, bad 3-pointers after a one-pass possession, and you know the rest.
KT: See, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown channeling their inner Kevin Millar before the game made me want to believe. But the 2004 Red Sox were a once-in-a-lifetime team and the 2023 Celtics have shown no evidence that they have anything close to that kind of heart. I think they’re done. Celtics lose.
CR: Normally this is the part where I mention once again that Boston’s shooting luck is due to finally bounce back and Miami is set for some regression. But after that Game 3 no-show, I can’t see this Celtics team being able to get off the mat. It’s going to be a long, long offseason.
Which player needs to step up tonight? — 8:10 p.m.
NY: Jayson Tatum. When the Celtics staved off elimination on the road against Milwaukee last year, Tatum scored 46. When they beat Philadelphia in Game 7 — just 9 days ago! — he dropped 51. As the best player on the team, Tatum needs to set the tone if the Celtics want a chance.
CF: Jayson Tatum. He’s the superstar, and while many Celtics fans tend to forget it and instead dwell on his flaws, he’s come through huge before. (See: Nicole’s comment.) But it would be swell if Jaylen Brown can shoot better than 10 percent from 3, too. Tatum has been inconsistent. Brown has been a downright detriment.
KT: Jayson Tatum needs to step up. A true superstar wouldn’t let the Celtics go out like this. Another 6-18 night simply isn’t going to cut it from a guy who is supposed to be the best player on the floor. Desperate times call for special performances. The Celtics need some of that Game 7 vs. Philly energy, or they’re going home.
CR: There’s a loooong list of candidates here, but I’ll have to go with Jaylen Brown. You’re not going to be very competitive in a series when your All-NBA wing is getting outplayed by *checks notes* ... Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson, etc. Through three games, Brown has more turnovers (11) than assists (10), and is just 2-for-20 from 3-point range. He needs to be much, much better.
Jaylen Brown tries to explain his struggles — 8:05 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
Jaylen Brown entered Tuesday night’s Game 4 shooting just 37.7 percent from the field in the series. He was 2 for 20 from the 3-point line with 9 turnovers and 10 assists, a bad stretch at a bad time for the recent All-NBA selection.
Before the game, Brown acknowledged that the Heat’s defensive schemes have posed some challenges for him.
“Miami does a good job switching back and forth between zone and man and not trying to let me go to the basket like I want to do,” he said. “Struggled a little bit trying to find an easy one and get going.”
A report said the Celtics never got over Ime Udoka’s dismissal. Players say it isn’t true. — 8:00 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
The Celtics on Tuesday pushed back against an ESPN report that the players “never got over” the dismissal of coach Ime Udoka.
“No,” guard Marcus Smart said. “No. Regardless of if Ime was here or not, we’re the ones out there playing. We’ve got to go out there and play. Joe [Mazzulla] does a great job of putting us in the right positions. They come up with a game plan. It’s on us. There’s only so much any coach can do for you out there as a player. At some point you’ve got to look at yourself and figure it out.”
Udoka, who guided the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season, was suspended in September for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate team employee. Mazzulla was named interim coach following Udoka’s suspension, and he took over the role full time after Udoka was fired in February.
After the Celtics were walloped by the Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, Mazzulla attempted to shoulder the blame during his postgame news conference.
“It’s a group effort from our front office to everybody,” forward Jaylen Brown said. “Everybody’s in this together. Joe doesn’t need to fall on his sword for anybody.”
Only three teams have even forced a Game 7 after going down 3-0. We break down the data. — 7:50 p.m.
By Alex Speier
After a lopsided 128-102 loss by the Celtics in Game 3, is there any reason to think they’ll be able to claim at least one victory?
Historically, odds are against it.
• None of the 150 teams that lost the first three games of a seven-game NBA (or Basketball Association of America, a precursor to the NBA) playoff series has come back to win the series.
• A hefty 92 of those 150 teams (61 percent) got broomed away into four-game oblivion.
• Forty-four of the 150 teams (29 percent) avoided the sweep but got dispatched in Game 5.
• Eleven of the 150 teams (7 percent) claimed two wins before getting eliminated in Game 6.
• Three of the 150 teams (2 percent) forced a Game 7 and then lost.
What about the No. 2 seeds?
• There have been 23 to suffer three straight defeats to open a series. Of those, nine won Game 4, but just one of those extended the series to a sixth game, and none pushed it to a winner-take-all Game 7.
So who did extend series after sprinting straight to the brink? All three of the teams that went from down 3-0 to tied 3-3 fought their way to a Game 7 despite status as a lower seed.
• The 1950-51 Knicks were a No. 3 seed that overcame a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals against the Rochester Royals (a No. 2 seed) before losing.
• More than 40 years later, the 1993-94 Nuggets (a No. 8 seed) forced a Game 7 against the Jazz (a No. 5 seed) before losing by 10 in the decisive game of the Western Conference semifinal.
• In 2002-03, the Trail Blazers nearly erased their 3-0 deficit as a No. 6 seed against the Mavericks (No. 3) in the first round, but the Dirk Nowitzki/Steve Nash Dallas team stood its ground.
• Of the 11 teams that won Games 4 and 5 before getting eliminated in Game 6, only two were higher seeds in the series.
Cedric Maxwell says Celtics management had ‘run-in’ with players — 7:40 p.m.
By Khari Thompson
Did Celtics management approach the players after Sunday night’s loss in Game 3?
Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell said he’s been hearing rumblings of a postgame ”run-in.”
“I just heard that there was just a run-in between people and upper management and with the players,” Maxwell said during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich. “I don’t know any more than that. That’s a rumor that came through, but it didn’t matter about that. With Wyc and what happened with them, it was more about what the players did on the floor and how they responded.”
Maxwell was asked if he’s seen Celtics governor Wyc Grousebeck talking to Mazzulla on the sidelines during games. Toucher and Rich co-host Rich Shertenlieb mentioned a video which he said appears to show Grousebeck telling Mazzulla to pull the starters.
“No, I haven’t seen any that you know,” Maxwell said. “I’ve heard that different things happened after the game. There were some exchanges. But, you know, I just think that you know, Wyc and everybody else wants to win and they were embarrassed.”
What happened to the Celtics’ defense? — 7:25 p.m.
By Adam Himmelsbach
It has been a stunning and jarring week for a team that was the favorite to win the NBA title when this series began, and in some ways, it feels as if this implosion has arrived with little warning. But on Monday, guard Malcolm Brogdon hinted that some issues were masked during the previous two series, mostly because the Celtics went on to win them.
Brogdon could see ominous signs developing at a time when the Celtics had hoped to be peaking.
“I mean, it’s definitely concerning,” he said. “I think we’ve taken a few steps back in these playoffs overall. I think it’s showing because we’re playing a very disciplined, consistent, well-coached team. But I think in the Atlanta series, I think in the Philly series, I think we got away with things that now are biting us. So that’s definitely troubling.”
The Celtics had the NBA’s second-ranked defensive unit during the regular season, surrendering 110.6 points per 100 possessions. During the playoffs, their 113.5 defensive rating ranks 10th of 16 teams, and is the worst of the four remaining squads.
“We haven’t been consistently great defensively all year long, and that was the team’s identity last year,” Brogdon said. “I think that’s slipped away from us.
“We’ve had spurts where we’ve been great defensively, but not consistently. And honestly, we’ve struggled in every series we played.
“So now we’re playing a team that’s playing as if they’re the best team in the league, and they’re just incredibly disciplined, incredibly consistent. And I think we’ve struggled with teams that are consistent on a possession-by-possession basis every night.”
The Celtics’ predicament isn’t all on Joe Mazzulla. But the players need to rediscover their pride. — 7:10 p.m.
By Gary Washburn
This team has descended over the past few months, plummeting from a NBA championship favorite to an unstable bunch who cracked under the pressure of the Heat — no pun intended— in the past three games.
The Celtics have not improved since the All-Star Break. They have been relying solely on talent, meaning their once-daunting defense has dissipated into a bunch of unconnected individuals who relent at the first sign of pushback.
Privately, the Celtics have been stunned the Heat are playing so well. They have flipped the switch and the Celtics seem completely demoralized when they make the proper defensive play and Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, or Caleb Martin still hits the shot.
The Heat are daring the Celtics to shoot mid-range jumpers. That’s why they’re up 3-0. — 7:00 p.m.
By Julian Benbow
The itinerary five years ago at the Coaching U Live clinic in Las Vegas had Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra scheduled to teach some of the finer points of pick-and-roll coverages to coaches from across the country, but he couldn’t resist the urge to offer his observations on where the game was churning in 2018.
Spoelstra paced around the free throw line as he pointed out what was growing in the game (pick-and-rolls) and what was dying (post-ups and mid-range jumpers).
“It’s almost becoming a negative word, ‘mid-range,’ " Spoelstra said. “Everybody, all they talk about now is threes, layups, and free throws.”
He asked his audience a reasonable question.
“Well, if everybody’s trying to get those, what is everybody also trying to take away?”
The answer, of course, was threes, layups, and free throws.
“Eventually,” Spoelstra said, “what’s getting open a lot is this area here.”
Realizing where he was on the floor, Spoelstra used his hands to draw circles to spotlight the mid-range area.
“You’re seeing fewer and fewer players that are really able to really maximize this area and make an opponent pay,” he said. “You want to talk about something in player development? Don’t listen to all that hype that it can only be threes and layups and free throws. If you find a difference-maker that can really make a difference in here, that guy or girl is pretty special.”
Five years after making clear his stance on the value of the mid-range game, Spoelstra and the Heat are making an example of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. Read the rest of the story here.
Jimmy Butler fined after Game 3 — 6:45 p.m.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for not participating in required media availability after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Butler did not talk to reporters following the Heat’s 128-102 victory on Sunday night that gave them a 3-0 lead over the Celtics.
NBA TV, which has been televising the postgame press conferences, teased that Butler would be coming to the podium during its coverage, but the star forward never appeared. Gabe Vincent, Bam Adebayo, and Caleb Martin instead followed coach Erik Spoelstra. — Associated Press
With the Celtics in a 3-0 series hole, it’s time for some perspective from the expert — 6:30 p.m.
When your team is down three games to zero, and all seems lost, there’s only one man to call.
As soon as the Celtics succumbed, 128-102, in Game 3 Sunday, Millar knew his phone was going to blow up.
Chad Finn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him @GlobeChadFinn. Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her @nicolecyang. Khari Thompson can be reached at email@example.com. Conor Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.