Boston Celtics' 'sense of urgency' from start to finish propels Game 4 blowout of Miami Heat to even East finals

BOSTON -- When things have gone poorly for the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, it has been when they've lost focus and allowed Miami to speed them up and turn them over, leading to fast-break points -- the one consistent way the Heat have scored in this series.

That was the formula Miami used to fuel its victories in Games 1 and 3. And so, heading into Game 4, Boston knew that in order to even this series at two wins apiece, it would have to avoid falling into those same bad habits once again.

The Celtics were utterly dominant at both ends from start to finish on Monday night. Boston scored the first eight points and never looked back, cruising to a wire-to-wire 102-82 victory in front of a sellout crowd at TD Garden to send this series back to the shores of Biscayne Bay for Game 5 on Wednesday, with both teams two wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals.

"Urgency," said Jayson Tatum, who led all scorers with 31 points, when asked to describe Boston's mindset entering Game 4. "That was a focal point coming into this game, to just have a sense of urgency on both ends of the floor, from start to finish. Really starting the game better, obviously, than we did last game. That's something that we talked about and something that we executed tonight."

In a series that has seen each game swing wildly from one direction to the other, it took about 10 seconds to realize Game 4 would follow a similar pattern.

Boston immediately jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Miami scored a single point; and the Celtics eventually took an 18-1 lead before the Heat finally made their first field goal with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter when Victor Oladipo buried a 3-pointer.

By then, Miami had missed 14 consecutive shots to open the game, setting a tone for all that was to come over the final 40 minutes. The Heat simply never got out of first gear, as Boston -- even without the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Smart -- smothered Miami's starters into an abysmal combined 7-for-36 shooting performance, including going 1-for-10 from 3-point range.

In a summation of Boston's dominance, Tatum, who is now averaging 32.6 points per game during these playoffs following a loss, outscored Miami's starters by 13 points by himself.

"For everybody, the focus was great tonight," Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. "We understood we have to be more aggressive and physical on the defensive end.

"Nobody scored in double figures with their starters. ... I think we obviously set the tone right there. But we have a prideful team, one of the best defensive teams in the league as well as individuals, and they heard some of the things that were said and took pride in those matchups."

A big part of those struggles was Jimmy Butler once again having a rough night. Even without Smart out there to hound him, Butler -- who was dominant through the first two games, like he has been for virtually all of Miami's playoff run -- again looked off after sitting out the second half of Game 3, going 3-for-14 in 27 minutes and failing to even attempt a free throw.