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Celtics start fast, finish off Miami in Game 4, 102-82

BOSTON — If Game 3 was about being taken out before it had barely started, the Celtics reversed the concept Monday night.

Beginning with a 29-11 first quarter and building a lead that peaked at 32 points, the Celtics hit back with a 102-82 win over Miami for a 2-2 series tie in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In addition to the finest season of Jayson Tatum’s young career, the Celtics got here by virtue of the NBA’s finest defense. And despite the ankle-related absence of the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart, the C’s turned in one of their finest defensive performances of the 2022 postseason, limiting Miami to sub-30% shooting before the advent of garbage time.

Tatum rebounded from a 10-point Game 3 performance to score 31 on 8-for-16 shooting, despite only shooting 1-for-7 from downtown.

Miami, without the injured Tyler Herro, and with a clearly sub-par Jimmy Butler (six points) playing despite knee trouble, fell behind 18-1 quickly under pressure from a Celtics team that was missing Smart.

Tatum had 31 points after three quarters, and the Celtics led, 76-52, on the power of one of their finest defensive performances of the postseason. Beyond Victor Oladipo’s 20 points, the next high Miami scorer was Caleb Martin with 12.

With Al Horford and Payton Pritchard both hitting 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the fourth, the Celtics were able to close out early.

Above all, the Celtics’ signature defensive pressure was evident in their 57-33 halftime lead, with the Heat not making a basket for just over the first seven minutes of the game, and eventually shooting 28.2 percent by halftime.

Tatum had 24 points, and his turnaround banker early in the third gave the Celtics their first 30-point lead (67-37) of the night. The lead grew to 32 points before the Heat began chipping away, eventually putting together an 8-0 run. But the Celtics closed out the quarter ahead 76-52.

After being victimized by a 39-18 Heat first quarter lead in Game 3, the Celtics, with Derrick White setting the early tone with the first seven points of the game, scored 18 points before Miami made a basket. The Heat missed their first 14 shots of the game, and didn’t make a basket until an Oladipo 3-pointer with 3:21 left in the quarter.

The Celtics hit a peak first-quarter lead of 22 points (26-4). Derrick White had 10.

Miami, under pressure, continued to shoot at a low percentage, as the Celtics built back to a 21-point lead (44-23) with Tatum and Jaylen Brown combining for 13 straight Celtics points and 14 of 17.

Their pivotal run was an extended 19-8 burst for a 53-26 lead, with Robert Williams dominant at both ends, including five offensive rebounds.