And just like that the Boston Celtics are one game away from elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals. One more underwhelming performance and the Celtics will be on the wrong end of a gentleman’s sweep. It’s infuriating to watch because before Game 4 the Celtics led for the large majority of minutes played only to blow leads late. Game 4 itself was just a sloppy game for Boston all around despite the near miracle comeback in the closing seconds.
Jayson Tatum was AWFUL in the first half going 0-6 including four three pointers to go into the half with zero points, which was the first time he’s done that all season. He must have found a bottle of Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff from Space Jam in the locker room though as he dropped 28 points in the final 24 minutes of the game.
His explosion in the second half just made Tatum’s first half struggles look even worse by comparison though. He is arguably the most talented player in this series and he was constantly dribbling out the shot clock and settling for shitty fadeaway threes. So much so that the studio analysts at halftime wondered aloud if he was injured. Why is a 6’8″ career 83% free throw shooter not attacking the rim if his shot isn’t falling? That is something that Tatum needs to understand better if he is going to take the next jump to superstardom.
This team still struggles mightily against the zone defense that my high school team used to play. Marcus Smart seemed to be the only player capable of driving and effectively kicking the ball out to shooters. It was something that Van Gundy pointed out during the game as Smart was the only player that was looking at the rim as he drives before kicking it out. Otherwise the defenders are just waiting for the outlet pass. The Celtics have been rendered completely helpless against the most basic defense for long stretches of this series. The broadcast team even suggested this may be the longest a team has ever stuck with a zone defense in any playoff series ever. Ay caramba.
If not for Gordon Hayward this team would have already been en route to their offseason vacations. While he didn’t light up the stat sheet in Game 3 he was a tangible force moving the ball and making a couple clutch shots. In Game 4 he was much more comfortable shooting the ball as he finished with 14 points. Hayward is the only player the Celtics can bring off the bench to consistently get buckets at this point, which is killing them. The rest of the bench had 8 combined points on Wednesday night. In Game 3 the bench scored a combined 11 points outside of Hayward, a respectable 16 (9 from Kanter) in Game 2, and 18 in Game 1 with 11 from Brad Wanamaker.
Tyler Herro is a goddamn baller, plain and simple. To be honest, we probably should have expected this dude to become an assassin based solely on his Draft Night fit.
Allegedly Danny Ainge was set to take the Kentucky shooter at No. 14 in last year’s draft before Pat Riley snatched him up right before the Celtics at No. 13 overall. I don’t know if I believe that as Danny tends to draft project athletes with high ceilings more than shooters, but goddamnit has Herro made it hurt to watch what could have been. He absolutely crushed the Celtics in Game 4 with a cool 37 points and was generally unstoppable with a clean look.
Marcus Smart continues to be the ultimate enigma making incredible and boneheaded plays within seconds of each other. Like when he laid out onto the floor to knock a loose ball to Jaylen Brown, who was then fouled. The Celtics then inbounds the ball at half court and Smart gets the ball only to immediately lose his handle and turn the ball over.
The No. 1 most hated play of the night goes to the C’s doubling the ball handler late in the 4th and leaving Goran Dragic wide fucking open for a 3 on a night where he scored 22 points. And you could see on the replay that Smart thought Jaylen Brown was going to rotate and cover the shooter as he was visibly upset and clapping at the young forward.
The officiating was generally awful both ways, but hey Tony Brothers was on the court so did we expect anything less? I also don’t get the Hayward foul call on this three pointer from Goran. I know he is technically “in the shooter’s space” but jesus christ what’s he supposed to do there?
We calling a foul on Hayward’s mustache? I thought any elbow striking a defender above the shoulders was a flagrant 1 these days?#NBA #CelticsTwitter #NBATwitter #Boston #Celtics #Miami #Heat #HEATTwitter #BleedGreen pic.twitter.com/cjazT8TgTw— The 300s (@The300sBoston) September 24, 2020
The final play of the game was also a disaster. Down 3 with 1 second remaining the Celtics were out of timeouts so it was kind of a fire drill hail mary play, but I still hated what they came up with. Needing a TB12-esque picture perfect throw the Celtics opt for center Daniel Theis to make the inbounds pass. I understand Theis isn’t really a 3 point threat there, but he’s also the worst passer on the floor being asked to make a pinpoint cross court pass with 1 second remaining. Not surprisingly he heaved one into traffic that never had a chance.
Is Bam Adebayo hurt? He was holding his wrist constantly in the last few minutes of the game after a collision with I believe Jaylen Brown under the hoop. He stayed in the game, but even the broadcast made note of how he was constantly waiving off the athletic trainers despite being in obvious pain. If Adebayo is injured that would be a huge factor in a do or die Game 5 as the Celtics have had no answers for the big man.
Iggy got OLD
Shoutout to me for this elite t-shirt from 2010
So the Celtics have an off night before Game 5 on Friday night to consider whether they have the fortitude required to push this series to the brink. They’ll need to win three straight against a Heat team that has been tough to beat when it comes to neck stepping time in the 4th quarter. If the Celtics bow out in five it would be a huge letdown, especially in a season where the path was seemingly cleared for them to reach the Finals. No Giannis, no Kawhi or LeBron in the East, just a scrappy Heat team led by a guy in Jimmy Butler that is on his fourth team in four years. After some serious collapses down the stretch and the much publicized blowout in the locker room after Game 2, if this team doesn’t make a series out of this I would not be surprised to see Danny make some tough decisions with the construction of this roster.
Until the final buzzer sounds though I’ll hold out hope just because we’ve seen crazier things happen. In times like this I like to think back to that infamous Kevin Millar quote back in 2004. “Don’t let us win today.”