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Playoffs 2020

NBA Playoffs 2020: What to watch for in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat

The Boston Celtics are on the board in the Eastern Conference Finals after taking Game 3 over the Miami Heat.

With the series now at 2-1, the Celtics aim to even the series with a Game 4 win to make it a best two-out-of-three scenario to reach the NBA Finals while the Heat try and put themselves one win away from reaching the championship.

Here are three things to watch in a pivotal Game 4.

Can the Heat get out to a better start?

Following Game 3's loss, both Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo expressed their frustration of always playing from behind.

"I think it gets old, playing from behind consistently," Butler told the media.

"We've got to start the game how we start the fourth," Adebayo echoed. "I feel like we're not the type of team where we can go through the motions and try and figure out everything in the first half, and then in the third or fourth, we just try to turn it on. It's not like that. We are not that type of team."

They completed double-digit comebacks in Games 1 and 2 to take a 2-0 series lead, but their 20-point comeback in Game 3 came up just short. In fact, despite having a lead in the series, Miami has actually trailed for over 70% of the minutes played in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Minutes led in the ECF
Celtics 74.7%
Heat 20.3%
Tied 5.0%

The Heat have had trouble starting games with the same energy that they close games. They've lost almost every first quarter of the playoffs so far - owning a 3-9 record in the first quarter of their 12 games.

They've yet to lead after the first quarter in this series and have gone into the second half trailing in two out of the three games they've played against the Celtics in the Conference Finals. Look for Miami to come out with a different type of attitude in the first half of Game 4 to try and avoid having to come from behind later in the game where the margin for error is much smaller.

Slowing down the Celtics' duo

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were unstoppable in Game 3.

51 points, 21 rebounds, 13 assists, three steals and one block while shooting 20-for-37 (54.1%) from the field - that's the damage the Celtics' dynamic duo did to the Heat in their first win of the series.

Tatum was flirting with a 25-point triple-double, making history in the process. Per Celtics Stats, he became only player in NBA history to have multiple playoff games with 25+ points, 14+ rebounds and 8+ assists prior to turning 23 years old. Luka Doncic, this season, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only two other players to achieve that feat, each doing so once. That's not bad company to be a part of.

Tatum was a menace in transition, flying down the court with a purpose every time Boston created a turnover or grabbed a defensive rebound. This dunk on the fast break showcases just the type of mentality he was playing with:

And of course, it was Brown that sparked that play with a nice block on Goran Dragic.

As great as Tatum was in Game 3, you could easily make the case that Brown was the best player on the floor. He controlled the entire game, asserting himself into the paint, attacking the rim at will to really put the pressure on Miami's defence.

I mean, just look at this shot chart:

The Celtics dominated points in the paint in Game 3, outscoring the Heat 60-36. If you're looking for answers as to how that happened, Brown's shot chart paints the perfect picture. Instead of settling for contested perimeter jumpers against Miami's defence, Brown set the tone by getting into the teeth of the defence. The rest of Boston's roster followed suit and as a result, they came away with a win.

The Heat will have to make life much more difficult for the Celtics' two premier players if they're going to get a different outcome in Game 4.

More from Butler and Dragic

Bam Adebayo brought his A-game for Game 3, as he has for every game so far this series. His 27-point, 16-rebound double-double gave Miami a fighting chance in their first loss of the Conference Finals, but for the first time, his two teammates who have consistently stepped up failed to do so.

So far in these playoffs, Goran Dragic has looked like the player named an All-Star back in 2018. Of the 12 games the Heat have played, Dragic has only been held under 20 points four times. In this series in particular, The Dragon went off for 29 points and 25 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively, pacing Miami's offence.

In Game 3, he saw his lowest scoring output of the postseason, being held to just 11 points shooting 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point land with five turnovers.

The Celtics did make a major adjustment from the first two games, switching the tenacious Marcus Smart on to Dragic, and assuming they stick with that gameplan going forward, the Heat are going to need their starting point guard to get back into a groove.

To add to that, they're going to need more from All-Star forward Jimmy Butler.

Butler only had six points with his team trailing by 13 going into halftime. As I already mentioned, he talked about being frustrated with his team's slow starts, but he himself didn't get going until the fourth quarter.

Butler played a role in his team's late push at another comeback, going for seven of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. He shot 3-for-4 from the field in the final frame, but only scoring 17 points for the game, especially on a night where Dragic was also held under 20, is a recipe for disaster as the Heat try and keep up with the Celtics offensive weapons.

Look for both of these two players to step things up in Game 4 as they try and inch closer to that elusive NBA Finals appearance they're both lacking.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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