The Boston Celtics kept their Eastern Conference finals hopes alive with a 116-99 victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday to reduce the series deficit to 3-1.
Jayson Tatum inspired the Celtics to the victory with 34 points, 11 rebounds and assists, while five other players reached double figures in what was a determined display from Joe Mazzulla’s team.
After the Heat’s 128-102 win on Sunday, the Celtics were facing the possibility of a humiliating 4-0 exit but they will now be looking to put further pressure on Miami in Thursday’s clash back in Boston.
While no team in NBA history has ever come back from 3-0 down to win a best-of-seven playoff series, Boston will have drawn belief that they can now deliver a comeback and reach the Finals where the Denver Nuggets await.
“We were down 3-0, we didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves,” Tatum said afterwards.
“We tried to take it one game at a time. We weren’t thinking about winning four in a row tonight, we were just trying to save our season and win tonight and we did that.
“I think all series we’ve been generating good shots but it’s a make-or-miss league – sometimes they just don’t go in. But tonight we played with pace and purpose, we were getting stops, getting out of transition. You see layups and free throws go in the jump shots go in a lot easier,” he added.
The Heat, looking to reach the NBA finals for the seventh time as they search for their first NBA Championship since 2013, started strongly and took a 22-15 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.
With Gabe Vincent in inspired form, the Miami crowd sensed another convincing win for Erik Spoelstra but Boston kept themselves in the game went in just 56-50 down at half-time.
But Miami never recovered from allowing a 16-0 Celtics run in the third quarter and ran out of ideas against a strong Boston defense.
Jimmy Butler put up 29 points for Miami but managed only one of four three-pointers and his team made only eight-of-32 attempts from that range.
Boston, in contrast, made 19-of-45 three-pointers. The Celtics are 30-6 when they make 18 or more three-pointers in a game.