It was a night where the Miami Heat struggled with shooting so much in the first half that they were up by only six points at halftime despite the Boston Celtics getting a total of zero points from their best player, Jayson Tatum.
The Heat needed a hero in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tyler Herro, to be exact.
The 20-year-old rookie out of Kentucky torched the Celtics for 37 points, the most ever in a playoff game by a player aged 20 or younger besides Magic Johnson, who scored 42 in the 1980 NBA Finals. Seventeen of those points came in the critical fourth quarter when the Celtics woke up and made a run.
Down by as many as 12, the Celtics looked to do what the Heat had done to them in Games 1 and 2. Once Tatum got going, it looked like they might. Tatum scored all 28 of his points in the second half, most of them coming as part of Boston’s run in the second half of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth.
The Celtics came all the way back to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter, but costly turnovers and Herro’s brilliance on offense ensured that the Heat would hold on to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
The final score was 112-109, but it really wasn’t that close. The Celtics kept making shots to hand around, but they never had the ball with the chance to tie down the stretch until there was one second left, and they weren’t even able to get a desperation shot up.
It was a weird game because the Celtics shot better than the Heat, both from 3-point range and overall. They outrebounded the Heat as well. The biggest difference in the game was the turnovers. Boston had 19. Miami had just eight.
That’s truly been the story of the series. The Celtics appear to have more talent, but the Heat just continue to make fewer mistakes and play a more fundamentally sound style of basketball. That allows them to win games even when they’re outplayed.
It wasn’t just Herro playing well down the stretch, either. Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic hit big shots as well. Butler finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Dragic cashed in for 22 points. Bam Adebayo continued to give the Celtics defense fits as well, especially when they went with a smaller lineup in the fourth. Adebayo finished with another double-double, 20 points and 12 rebounds.
In addition to Tatum, the Celtics got big contributions from Jaylen Brown (21 points, nine rebounds), Kemba Walker (20 points) and Marcus Smart (10 points, 11 assists). But it wasn’t enough to even up the series, and it can be traced back to the horrible first half—which Tatum called “unacceptable” after the game—and costly turnovers down the stretch.
Erik Spoelstra is a hell of a coach, and he’s getting the most out of his players in this series, while the Celtics are learning that it’s hard to beat such a well-coached team with talent alone.
Now the Heat are in the driver’s seat while the Celtics have their backs against the wall down 3-1 in the series. They will need to channel their inner Denver Nuggets to try and overcome this deficit. Game 5 is on Friday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.