BOSTON — The bizarre nature of the Eastern Conference finals between Miami and Boston ventured into even stranger territory in Game 4.
The Heat missed their first 14 shots, didn’t make their first field goal until 3:21 remained in 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 to a 102-82 victory 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 pattern continued: Miami wins, Boston wins, Miami wins, Boston wins.
All four games have had at least 20-point leads, and the Celtics opened a 26-4 lead in the first quarter and 55-28 lead in the second quarter. Shortly after starting, this contest was – for all practical 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-point, six-turnover performance in Game 3.
He scored 24 of his game-high 31 points and made 6-for-11 from the field in the first half. His aggressive attack drew fouls, and he went 12-for-14 in the first two quarters.
"Obviously I was ready to get back to play, but I didn't doubt myself," Tatum said. "I know how to play basketball. Regardless how many points I scored, just trying to come out and help us get a win. That was what was most important."
Box score oddities
Boston was 16-for-43 (37.2%), including 2-for-11 for Jaylen Brown, and 4-for-17 (23.5%) on 3s (Derrick White and Tatum a combined 1-for-9) in the first half and yet the Celtics were up 57-33 at halftime.
It indicated just how poorly the Heat played.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, only one Heat starter (Jimmy Butler) had made a basket and Bam Adebayo (one point) was 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 (P.J. Tucker and Max Strus) didn't score and not one Heat starter reached double-figures in points.
Five Heat starters combined for 18 points, which is the fewest points by a 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 opening half.
The Celtics won Game 4 shooting less than 40% from the field and less than 25% on 3s – that’s not going to happen often in a playoff game.
Miami was putrid with its 29.6% shooting inside the 3-point line. Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 233 points off the bench.
Robert Williams makes a difference
Boston center Robert Williams did not play in Game 3 because of left knee soreness, and Adebayo took advantage with his best, most impactful game of the series.
Williams returned for Game 4 and locked up 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 discrepancy
In the past two games, the Celtics have outshot the Heat from the foul line 66-28, including 36-14 in Game 4.
That is not a commentary on the officiating. The more aggressive team gets calls and free throw attempts. Miami needs to attack and draw fouls.
"When you shoot a lot of jump shots, which we tended to do tonight, it's hard getting to the free throw line," Butler said. "I think we have to be more of a forceful-type team, getting into the paint, not shying away from contact and playing from the inside out. Whenever we do that and not shoot as many jumpers, we might get fouled a little bit."
Celtics limit turnovers
Boston coach Ime Udoka bemoaned his team’s 24 turnovers that led to 33 Heat points in Game 4.
"Taking care of the ball, that was pretty evident 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, making them score in the half court as opposed to getting the run-outs that we aided them with last game."
In Game 4, the Celtics committed just nine turnovers.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Celtics rout Heat in Game 4 of NBA conference final series