The Boston Celtics’ season didn’t end in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, and now there’s a glimmer of hope.
Whether Boston’s 116-99 win on Tuesday night was the start of a miraculous renaissance or just a momentary respite from what NBA history suggests remains to be determined.
If nothing else, the Celtics’ victory increased their chances of becoming the NBA’s first team in 151 tries to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series that went from insurmountable to iffy heading into Game 5 in TD Garden on Wednesday. .
That’s good for a team that had spent most of this series looking nothing like the one that won the second seed in the conference.
“We have to go win another one. That’s all that matters,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “We take it one game at a time. We understand that the odds are against us, but we are a team that believes in us no matter what, and we have to keep going, and the only thing that matters is the next game.”
Much of what made the Celtics one of the best scoring and defensive teams in the league during the regular season was gutted in three straight losses to Miami to open the series.
The Heat confused Boston in those games. He eliminated top scoring threats in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, while outshooting a Celtics team that has typically demolished their opponents at the 3-point line.
Boston showed insight on both ends in Game 4, rallying during a game-changing 18-0 run in the third quarter. Led by Tatum’s 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, the Celtics outscored the Heat by 30 points from beyond the arc and turned Miami’s 16 turnovers into 27 points.
He also gave the Celtics a plan for moving forward.
“We still have a long uphill battle ahead of us,” Tatum said.
While the win gave the Celtics a bit of life, the Heat can blame themselves for not finishing. The game was close for three quarters and Miami only needs to win one of the last three games to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since its 2020 run in the Florida bubble. Denver is looking forward to playing the winner after sweeping the Lakers.
Boston won three times at home to the Heat last year in the Eastern Finals. With a win on Thursday, Miami would accomplish the same feat on Boston’s home court this year.
The Celtics are 4-5 at home this postseason.
Heat star Jimmy Butler said he’s not worried about Boston’s first win giving him momentum heading home.
“No. If anything, it will give us momentum knowing that we have to play with a lot more energy,” Butler said. “We have to play like we’ve got our backs against the wall. I had to do things the hard way.”
The Heat are preparing for Game 5 with two key players on the mend.
Gabe Vincent, who has been a spark in the series and scored 17 points in Game 4, left the game in the fourth quarter after spraining his left ankle.
Kyle Lowry also had an awkward knockdown, leaving the condition of the Miami point guards up in the air.
“Every time you ask these guys, they say, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ So we’ll see,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Game 4.