The Boston Celtics couldn’t have asked for a better time for Jayson Tatum to return to his best form than Monday night.
The 24-year-old, who has become one of the NBA’s biggest stars this season and through the playoffs, scored 31 points as the Celtics edged the Miami Heat 102-82 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. the Eastern Conference.
After a disappointing Game 3 in which he scored just 10 points as the Heat won comfortably, Tatum looked back to his best, racking up eight rebounds and five assists as well.
The result ties the best-of-seven series at 2-2, with the two teams next meeting in Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday.
“You feel like you let your teammates down,” Tatum said when asked about his Game 3 performance.
“I think I’m doing a really good job sleeping whether I have 10 points or 46 points. I’m a big believer that you can’t change what happened. I didn’t doubt myself.
Tatum added: “Obviously we knew how important this game was. Everyone just had to find a different sense of urgency.
Throughout the regular season, Boston’s defense had been the No. 1 ranked in the NBA. And it showed why from the start of Game 5, even without NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.
Miami missed 15 of its first 16 shots as the Celtics stifled the Heat, allowing them to take a 26-4 lead and cruise to a comfortable late-game victory.
Boston led by 27 points in the second quarter and up to 32 points in the third.
For the Heat, it was a disappointing outing after an impressive performance in Game 3 on the road.
None of Miami’s starters reached double points and the top five totaled just 18 points in the game, the fewest by a starting lineup in the playoffs since stats were tracked in 1971, according to ESPN. . Reserve guard Victor Oladipo led the way for the Heat with 23 points.
Miami’s anemic offense also scored just a single point in the first eight minutes, the lowest total by any team in a playoff game in the past quarter century, according to ESPN.
Playing without NBA Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, Miami struggled to create an opening in a hostile environment facing a teeming defense.
“They came out and jumped on us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We are not looking for excuses. They certainly outdid us tonight. We were never able to have any hold on the game.”