BOSTON — The bizarre nature of the Eastern Conference Finals between Miami and Boston ventured into even stranger territory in Game 4.
The Heat missed its first 14 shots, didn’t score its first field goal until 3:21 into the first quarter and trailed by at least 25 points in the first half for the second time in this series.
It barely got better for the Heat as the Celtics rolled towards a 102-82 win in Game 4 on Monday, tying the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday in Miami (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The back and forth, not always competitive, continued: Miami wins, Boston wins, Miami wins, Boston wins.
All four games were at least 20 points clear, and the Celtics opened up a 26-4 first quarter and 55-28 second quarter lead. Shortly after it started, this contest was — for all intents and purposes — over.
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Jayson Tatum atones for Game 3
Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum admitted he needed to be better in Game 4 after his 3-for-14, 10 points and six rotations performance in Game 3.
He scored 24 of his game-high 31 points, and went 6 for 11 from the field in the first half. His aggressive offense drew fouls and he went 12 for 14 through the first two quarters.
“Obviously I was ready to get back into the game, but I didn’t doubt myself,” Tatum said. “I know how to play basketball. It didn’t matter how many points I scored, I was just trying to come out and help us win. That was the most important thing.”
Box score quirks
Boston was 16 for 43 (37.2%), including 2 for 11 for Jaylen Brown and 4 for 17 (23.5%) on 3 (Derrick White and Tatum combined 1 for 9) in the first half and yet the Celtics led 57-33 at halftime.
It indicated how poorly the Heat had played.
Near the end of the first quarter, only one Heat starter (Jimmy Butler) had made a field goal and Bam Adebayo (one run) was the only other Heat starter to score in the first quarter.
After Butler, the other four Heat starters were 0 for 12 until Kyle Lowry and Adebayo made buckets in the final 2:13 of the half. Two Heat starters (PJ Tucker and Max Strus) didn’t score and not a single Heat starter reached double points.
Five Heat starters combined for 18 points, which is the fewest points per starting five in a playoff game since the league began tracking that stat in 1970-71, according to ESPN.
The Heat were 4 for 20 on shots in the paint in the first half.
The Celtics won Game 4 shooting less than 40 percent from the field and less than 25 percent in 3 – that won’t happen often in a playoff game.
Miami was putrid with its 29.6 percent shooting from inside the 3-point line. Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 233 points off the bench.
Robert Williams makes the difference
Boston center Robert Williams did not play in Game 3 due to left knee pain and Adebayo took advantage with his best and most impactful playing in the series.
Williams returned for Game 4 and locked in Adebayo, who had just nine points and six rebounds but took just five shots in a passive performance.
Williams has the defensive versatility — the ability to protect the rim and defend away from the basket — to limit what Adebayo does. Williams had 12 points, nine rebounds, including five offensive boards and two blocks.
Free throw gap
In the past two games, the Celtics have outshot the Heat from the foul line 66-28, including 36-14 in Game 4.
This is not a commentary on refereeing. The more aggressive team gets calls and free throw attempts. Miami must attack and draw fouls.
“When you’re shooting a lot of jump shots, which we tended to do tonight, it’s hard to get to the free throw line,” Butler said. “I think we need to be a more energetic type team, get into the paint, not shy away from contact and play from the inside. Anytime we do that and don’t shoot as many jumpers, we might be a little bit clogged.”
Celtics limit turnovers
Boston coach Ime Udoka lamented his team’s 24 turnovers that led to 33 Heat points in Game 4.
“Taking care of the ball was pretty obvious in the first half,” Udoka said. “I think we only had four turnovers, three in the first quarter. So taking care of the ball was huge, obviously getting them to score in the half court instead of getting the outings we got them. helped with the last game.”
In Game 4, the Celtics committed only nine turnovers.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Celtics rout Heat in Game 4 of NBA Conference Finals