The Boston Celtics had no answer to the Miami Heat’s poise, execution and grit and lost the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals. Boston’s frustration was so evident in Game 3 that they quit on themselves and earned themselves the ire of their faithful and even casual fans.
As the Celtics prepared to avoid an embarrassing sweep heading into Game 4, anxiety filled the air. At that moment, assistant coach Matt Reynolds suddenly spoke to a stunned meeting room (via Jay King):
“I have something to say. Guys, we had a bad week. Stay calm. It’s got to shift.”
The simplicity of Reynolds’ words struck the desperate Celtics like a bolt of lightning. It came from a voice that reportedly no one expected. The words were so true that they put Boston’s season in the right perspective even as they scrambled for answers to solve the Heat.
Marcus Smart, considered to be the heart and soul of the Eastern Conference champs, had this to say about the incident:
“We all felt what he said. We took it to heart.”
The Boston Celtics didn’t want to go down without a fight. They had too much pride in wearing the Celtic green to go home without at least salvaging something. Reynolds’ words helped open their eyes that they weren’t as bad as they played in the first three games of the series.
Just making shots is sometimes all that matters in basketball. For whatever reason, the Boston Celtics suddenly regained their identity in the win-or-go-home Game 4.
Boston made 18-45 (40.0%) 3-pointers after hitting just 31-106 (29.0%) in their three straight losses. The desperate Celtics played with more pace, which created more open opportunities for everyone.
It also helped that Jayson Tatum scored 25 points in the second half. The All-Star forward had a hand in 40 of their 66 points after the break.
Matt Reynolds’ words have proven to be true. Things have shifted in the Boston Celtics’ favor.
The Boston Celtics are shooting their way back into the series
The Boston Celtics lost their shooting touch starting Game 1 of the Conference finals against the Miami Heat. They hit just 29.0% of their 3-pointers in Games 1-3. Boston was also only 39% (19-49) on open 3-pointers.
Over the last two games, the Celtics have flipped the switch. They hit 34-84% from deep (40.0%) and a staggering 53.0% (23-43) on open threes.
After the embarrassing Game 3 loss, the Boston Celtics were still down by nine points early in the third quarter of Game 4. They dropped a crippling 18-0 run and outscored the Heat 44-22 in a 14-minute stretch between the third and fourth periods.
After collapsing in Games 1 and 2, Boston out-executed Miami in the stretch in Game 4 to finally break through.
Game 5 was the first time in the series the Celtics showed who they really are. They had the Miami Heat on their heels right from the opening tip and never let up. The 110-97 win did not tell the full story of the drubbing the Celtics handed the Heat on Thursday.
Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla has made superb adjustments in their back-to-back wins. Assistant coach Matt Reynolds may have given them a jolt that could help them create history by becoming the first team to win after being 3-0 down.
Game 6 is set to take place in Miami on Saturday.