Three Takeaways From Bittersweet Celtics Game 4 Win Vs. Heat

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The Boston Celtics didn’t allow the Miami Heat to make their first-round playoff battle any more competitive than it should be in Game 4.

Boston rolled with the defense-produced momentum of Game 3, going 2-for-2 in Miami with a chance to end the series back home at TD Garden. The Heat weren’t able to adjust their game plan, once again hit by a dead end offensively in front of their home crowd for a second straight time.

Pulling away with a 102-88 victory on Monday night, the Celtics are just four quarters of winning basketball away from avenging last season’s playoff defeat and advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Here are three takeaways from Game 5:

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1. Kristaps Porzingis’ pre-playoff concerns came to life, so the Celtics should treat Game 5 like a team playing from behind
Before the Celtics transitioned from the regular season to the postseason, the looming concern that followed Porzingis from Washington to Boston was primarily health-related.

Could Porzingis, who’s never played beyond the first round of the playoffs, sustain a deep run? In the second quarter, that topic re-introduced itself when Porzingis limped off the floor, suffered a right calf injury, and reportedly left Kaseya Center in a walking boot, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

The 28-year-old had missed 25 games in the regular season, managing short-term injuries, including a left calf tightness injury on Nov. 24, which sidelined Porzingis for Boston’s following four games. It didn’t follow up with any major developments to hamper Porzingis, but now comes as a major cause for concern moving forward for the Celtics.

“He’s in good spirits but we don’t know what’s it gonna be,” Al Horford told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “I’m just hoping that it’s nothing serious and he can get back to us quicker. I think all of us, our mindset has to shift. Specifically, me and myself, I talked to Luke (Kornet), I talked to Xavier (Tillman Sr.), and just kind of letting them know that we have to be ready to step up and do a little bit more.”

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Boston survived the test of Game 4, however, that didn’t clinch the series, as it only got the job 75% done. Therefore, it’ll be up to the Celtics — specifically their mental toughness — to end Miami’s season as soon as possible, rather than give the Heat a fighting chance.

2. Disciplined basketball can overcome (almost) anything
The Celtics lost Porzingis, but didn’t let loose of their double-digit lead over the Heat for the remaining two quarters of play.

Boston led Miami by as many as 28 points, limiting the turnover total to four in the second half — including a shot-clock violation turnover with 15 seconds left in regulation up by 14 points. The team emphasized everything it could control like defensive urgency, which stumped the Heat in Game 3. Miami was held to 9-of-33 shooting from 3-point range, committed 15 turnovers, and scored only eight fastbreak points.

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“You look after the first quarter we’re right there. We actually won the fourth,” Miami’s Bam Adebayo told reporters postgame. “So that first quarter is really our issue right now.”

Porzingis being limited to just 14 minutes on the floor wasn’t the only factor that could’ve dragged the Celtics down. Jaylen Brown committed a game-high six turnovers and shot only 7-of-18 from the field while the reserve unit only managed to pitch in nine points.

Had those issues not appeared, the Heat wouldn’t have stood a chance.

3. Time for Boston’s depth to pull itself up by its bootstraps
Putting Miami’s season to an end once and for all is the goal for Wednesday night’s Game 5 battle, but it might not be as easy as a 3-1 lead would suggest.

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The Heat have been playing at a disadvantage, tasked with giving the Celtics a run for their money without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier — the team’s No. 1 scoring option and starting point guard. Considering head coach Erik Spoelstra is familiar with Boston and has worked with making the most of an underdog core in recent years, entering Game 5 nonchalantly would be foolish — and could backfire in the blink of an eye.

“Nothing changes. Bringing the same mindset, intentionality, toughness, details to the next game regardless of who’s available. It doesn’t matter,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said, per CLNS Media. “There’s no difference between the regular season and the playoffs. All year we’ve had guys step in and play. The most important thing is execute the game plan and bring the mindset and toughness it takes.”

Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser combined for zero points on 0-of-6 shooting which A) is uncharacteristic and B) cannot be replicated moving forward. Boston needs to rely on its bench as it did routinely in the regular season in order for the Celtics to hit their ceiling this postseason.

What better time to start than in Game 5 on Wednesday night?

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