Another Eastern Conference Finals game. Another blowout.
We could try to explain this “hey, I wonder what’s on the Food Network” kind of game in a few different ways. Part of it was Boston’s defense played with the desperation of a team that knew it needed a win. Robert Williams was back and patrolling the paint, contesting the little floaters that Bam Adebayo loves to toss up. Al Horford was in everyone’s face.
Or we could talk about how Jimmy Butler, playing through the knee issue that kept him out the second half of Game 3, was not himself, hitting just 3-of-14 on the night. When Butler isn’t right and Tyler Herro is out, the Heat struggled to create good looks or hit tough shots.
Maybe it was all of the above. The bottom line: It was another blowout in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami missed their first 14 shots, scored 11 points in the first quarter and 33 points in the first half.
The Heat did not make a shot until 3:22 left in the 1st quarter, the longest drought without a field goal to start any playoff game over the last 25 years. pic.twitter.com/pKIBjxodDU
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2022
For Boston, Jayson Tatum looked like his All-NBA self again with 31 points, and the Celtics routed the Heat 102-82 in a game that saw a 20-point Boston lead in the first quarter and was never seriously contested after that.
The Eastern Conference Finals are tied 2-2 with Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday.
Maybe that’s part of the problem — the conference finals are played every other day, travel or no travel. Teams get more rest in the first round, in series with less on the line, and both the Heat and Celtics are battling injuries and fatigue this series. More rest would mean a better product when more people are watching.
It’s tough to draw any conclusions about a game like this — but every game in this series has been some version of this, with the teams trading turns blowing each other out. The only game that was close late was Game 3, and Miami led that by 26 in the first half but struggled to create offense in the second half with Butler sidelined, so it got close.
The Heat were just ice cold. Kyle Lowry was 1-of-6, Max Strus was 0-of-7, P.J. Tucker was 0-of-4, and Gabe Vincent was 2-of-11. The leading scorer among the Heat starters was Adebayo with nine points — and the shot-blocking potential of Williams had the Heat center kicking the ball out more. Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 23 points off the bench.
Tatum by himself outscored the Heat starters by 13 points.
After Tatum, the Celtics had balanced scoring: Payton Pritchard 14, Derrick White 13 (including the first seven of the game), Williams and Jaylen Brown each with a dozen. The Celtics weren’t lights out this game, shooting 8-of-34 from 3 (23.5%), but they were getting into the paint and better than their opponent.
We can hope that Game 5 is more entertaining — both teams should be desperate and playing at a high level. Should. But the way this series has gone, we’ll need to see it to believe it.