Celtics pass first crunch-time test in Game 4, win over Cavs

1. Jayson Tatum got off to another fast start in terms of scoring on Monday, generating 16 points in the first frame. That’s his most in any period this postseason. It is also the most he has ever scored in the first quarter of a play-off match.

The five-time All-Star got off to a good start in the Celtics’ Game 3 victory on Saturday as he broke out of his scoring slump. The former Duke Blue Devil produced 12 points in the first 12 minutes that night and finished with 33, tying Donovan Mitchell for the most points in the game.

2. Boston’s defense was not at the level it needed to be in the opening frame. The Cavaliers shot 50% from the field, including knocking down six of the nine mostly clean looks they got from behind the arc.

The visitors consistently paid for mistakes, such as leaving Sam Merrill open in the corner and not doing a better job of contesting Max Strus’ attempts.

3. Despite their lack of resistance on defense and six turnovers in the first quarter that led to ten points for Cleveland, the Celtics shot 66.7% from the field and combined a 4/8 performance from three-point range with 14 points in the paint . they gained a 37-30 lead entering the second period.

Four giveaways from the hosts also helped the Celtics gain ten fast-break points. And a 5/7 lead at the free-throw line while keeping the Cavaliers from trying anything also helped Boston’s ability to build a seven-point lead in the first twelve minutes of Monday’s game.

4. Jrue Holiday got off to a torrid start in the second quarter. The two-time All-Star fought for an offensive rebound and then cleared a Sam Hauser who missed three; he got two points past Georges Niang and knocked down a three from the left wing. Those seven points came before the nine minutes.

All ten points from the first half occurred in the second frame.

5. After a Jaylen Brown layup at 8:45, the star wing crashed into Strus, who landed over him. Whether it was frustration about that or the feeling that Strus should have gotten rid of him faster, Brown grabbed his foot with both hands.

That led to a re-evaluation due to a possible flagrant violation. Surprisingly, officials did not consider this unnecessary. However, it was an off-play foul that gave Cleveland one free throw.

6. Boston’s ability to extend possession, convert six offensive rebounds into a 10-4 lead in scoring on second chances, and produce fourteen points in the paint in the first two frames were crucial additions to the 7 /16 (43.8%) who scored from outside. arc in the first 24 minutes.

Tatum entered the break with 23 points and led all scorers. Brown had 11 and Holiday had 10.

The Celtics also got solid minutes from their second unit. Luke Kornet’s eight points included knocking down a thunderous putback and finishing an alley-oop from Tatum. Payton Pritchard pushed the pace, grabbed an offensive rebound and made two of his three triples.

7. But the visitors went into halftime having to step up their defense. Ten turnovers didn’t help, and neither did a few rushed shots, but simple mistakes and the need to be quicker to contest Cleveland’s attempts saw the Cavaliers knock down 11/25 (44%) of their threes.

Strus led the way with 15 points, while Caris LeVert provided 12 and Darius Garland contributed 11 points.

8. The Celtics answered the call for defense in the third quarter. Better ball pressure, better defense and shooting contests put the hosts in a 21-point stretch where they went 1/10 from three-point range.

9. As Kornet and Pritchard continued to come off the bench, it was baffling not to see Xavier Tillman Sr. was given the opportunity to join them. Al Horford entered the fourth quarter having missed his last nine threes.

The 16-year veteran is tired and appears to be losing confidence in his shot, chasing opportunities in the low post and being rushed in defence.

Tillman has proven himself in the playoffs and will be well defended if he gets minutes in Game 2 of this series. Leaning on him to help Horford pace himself seems not only wise, but necessary.

10. When the Cavaliers pulled within five on an Evan Mobley layup that closed the gap to 100-95 with 3:14 to go, Boston had its first crunch-time minutes this postseason.

The visitors’ ability to hold Cleveland to seven points in the final two minutes, five of which were decided, plus a Brown three off a feed from Tatum, propelled them over the finish line and fended off the hosts’ comeback bid . to take an impressive 3-1 series lead.

11. Game 5 between the Celtics and Cavaliers is Wednesday night at TD Garden. That matchup starts at 7:00 EST.

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