Lose and you’re out! Boston, survive today so there’s tomorrow.
With a focused effort in the elimination game, the Boston Celtics overcame the threat of a sweep to send the series back to their home of TD Garden. But they still have a long way to go. Meeting for the second straight season in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs, the series between the Miami Heat (3-1) and Boston (1-3) hasn’t gone quite as expected.
Many analysts predicted that the Heat, who are ahead in objective power, would take control of the series, but instead, they have been dragged down and are now in a position where they have to go all-in and fight to the death in every game. There’s no point in managing the health of their starters or trying to keep up with the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets. They have to survive today so they can play tomorrow.
There have been more upsets in the playoffs this season than any other, and they’ve been exciting. Fans of upset teams beat their chests and fans of underdog upsets cheered. Even the Phoenix Suns, who went all out to acquire Kevin Durant after the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated as the favorites, didn’t make it.
Nevertheless, as the Conference Finals began, local pundits predicted the dominance of the top-seeded teams that had outperformed in the regular season. This was the real deal, and the difference in power could make a big difference. CBS Sports in the U.S. picked Denver (7 of 8) and Boston (all 8) to advance to the Finals in their pre-Finals analysis segment.
Denver turned out as expected. Pundits predicted a six-game series, but the Nuggets easily won it with a quicker four-game sweep. The Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the helm and the likes of Rui Hachimura, Austin Reeves, and Dennis Schroder pushing for a higher spot, were no match for Denver’s firepower with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
The problem is Boston and Miami. Against their expectations, eighth-seeded Miami took the first three games. Like Denver, they were favored for a sweep. Second-seeded Boston has some breathing room after a close win in their last game. Most importantly, it’s good to see ace Jayson Tatum (25‧203cm) back in form. After scoring just 14 points in Game 3, Tatum made a name for himself in Game 4 with 34 points (four 3-pointers), 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Al Horford also hit three 3-pointers apiece to show that their shooting touch has returned.
Both Boston and Miami are chasing NBA firsts in this series. Miami is looking to become the first play-in tournament team to reach the Finals. An eighth-seeded team has reached the NBA Finals once before (the New York Knicks in 1999), but a play-in tournament team reaching the Finals is unprecedented.
Boston has an even tougher challenge안전놀이터. They’re pinning their hopes on an upset, which has never happened in NBA history. There have been 150 times a team has been down 3-0 in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series, and every single one of them has been eliminated. The odds are stacked against them. However, given that the Celtics were initially projected as the top dog, and the experts who predicted them to advance were also predicting a long series, there are many who believe that we should wait and see who will make it to the Finals.
The battle of the aces to lead their teams to the Finals is also fierce. Jimmy Butler (33‧201cm), who is especially strong in big games, is leading Miami’s “8th seed miracle” with his peak performance in every game. He doesn’t put up monster numbers like Jokic, but he’s a reliable scorer in close games and a leader who pushes his teammates forward.
Tatum, who won the inaugural Larry Bird Trophy (Eastern Conference Finals MVP) for his role in the Celtics’ demolition of Miami last season, has continued his dominance as Boston’s No. 1 option this season. In the playoffs, Butler averaged 29.9 points, 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals, while Tatum contributed 28.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and five assists. Both players are among the top scorers on the team.
Looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in three years, Miami would like to end the series with a fourth straight win in Boston. The Heat won both Games 1 and 2 of the series following their last trip to Boston in the regular season. The Heat, who also faced Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, have been particularly strong at TD Garden, going 2-1 in three games on the road.
With a lower 3-point percentage and more turnovers in Game 4 than Games 1-3, the Heat will need to regroup for Game 5. Big games like the playoffs are a battle of momentum and flow. It often comes down to who is more confident and able to control the flow. That’s why Miami defied expectations and took the first three games. With a reputation for being off their game, dropping Game 5 could put them in a chasing position and cause them to falter. If that happens, it’s Miami who will be on edge.
Boston, which is eliminated, has nothing to lose. It’s literally an all-out war every game. After a disappointing home record in the playoffs this season, they’ll need to live up to the expectations of their home fans. The Red Sox are just 4-5 in their last nine home games in the playoffs, so they’ll need to bring home the momentum with a win in Game 5. In the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami in 2020 and 2022, they were also disappointing at home, though they did take one game out of three in both seasons.
Boston, which needs to end its TD Garden losing streak, will need to capitalize on the momentum of Game 4. After committing nine turnovers before halftime in Game 4, the Celtics stayed focused, committing just one turnover in the remaining 24 minutes. Fans will be watching closely as Miami looks to continue its low-seeded surge and end the series in Game 5, or Boston looks to use the Game 4 win as a stepping stone to rally the top-seeded Celtics, making Game 5 more important than ever.
With the fate of both teams on the line, Game 5 will be broadcast live on SPOTV ON and SPOTV NOW on Friday, May 26 at 9:30am.