BOSTON (AP) – Huge leads. Long scoring droughts. Outbreaks.
The Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics is as close as can be and it’s back to Miami, all with two wins apiece. But the individual games were anything but.
Boston scored 18 of the first 19 points Monday night en route to a 102-82 win in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series. The Celtics led by as much as 32 points in the third quarter – a big gap even for a series full of them.
“Sometimes when you have two really competitive teams, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a one-point game,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “That means it can be flammable in any case. Both teams are explosive.”
And they seem to take turns catching fire: the team that got blown out won the next game every time.
“Whatever they did to us, we can do to them,” Spoelstra said. “None of us are happy about what happened tonight. This is part of the playoffs. There are these extreme ups and downs, especially when you have two teams that are pretty close and evenly matched.”
And both are proud of their defense. And defensively dominated games don’t always make TV entertaining. The series moves to Miami for Game 5 on Wednesday, with Boston guaranteeing another home game on Friday. If necessary, The Heat would host the crucial seventh game on Sunday.
“I think human nature comes into play, when you win a game you can relax a little bit,” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who had 31 points in Game 4 after scoring 10 in 3-a-side in the previous game -14 shooting had scored . “Obviously when we lose a game we feel like the next game is dead or died and then we come out and play like we did.
“I think we need to have that mindset in Game 5 – that it’s a game you absolutely have to win because tonight was essentially that,” he said. “Everyone knew. We could all feel it. I think that showed in the way we came out.”
It was the fourth consecutive game by a 20-point lead, two of which exceeded 30. There have been four lead changes throughout the series – just one in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.
“It’s wild, right,” said Miami guard Victor Oladipo, who came off the bench more than eight minutes into the first quarter to score the Heat’s first basket after they were already 18-1 down. “I’m not even sure how to explain it.
In a seesaw series, Game 1 was the most competitive of the series.
The Celtics led early by 13 points before Miami surpassed them 39-14 in the third quarter to finally take the lead. The Heat had a double-digit lead for most of fourth place.
In Game 2, Boston built a 34-point lead en route to a 25-point win. The Heat said they were embarrassed on their home pitch and Game 3 was the payback; They zoomed out to a 26-point lead in the first half.
And after losing heavily at home on Saturday, the Celtics led 8-0, 18-1, 26-4 in the first quarter of Game 4.
“Of course, because we lost the last game,” said Boston center Robert Williams III. “I feel like our team is like that. We have to work to get better in that regard. We shouldn’t have to be slapped on the mouth to answer.”
Although the Heat reduced their 26-point lead to one in Game 3, Boston never led the entire game. On Monday night, the Celtics led by double digits for more than 43 of the 48 minutes despite shooting under 40%, with their starters going 3-for-20 from within 3-point range.
“It’s sometimes an inconsistent series from both teams,” said Boston coach Ime Udoka. “Frankly, it’s weird.”
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