Derrick White Stars, Porzingis Exits, Celtics Push Heat to Brink of Elimination

Apr 29, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) celebrates a Celtics lead in Game 4 against the Miami Heat.
Apr 29, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) celebrates a Celtics lead in Game 4 against the Miami Heat. / Michael Laughlin-USA TODAY Sports

The question entering Game 4 of this first-round rivalry clash between the Celtics and Heat was whether Boston would keep its foot on the gas after a dominant 104-84 victory on Saturday.

Perhaps a costly letdown in terms of effort on the defensive end and overall execution in Game 2 after a decisive 114-94 win in the series opener was a forceful enough reminder that it needs to maintain its edge and play with the required level of physical and mental toughness to be successful.

There's also the reality that, provided the Celtics aren't dramatically losing the battle from beyond the arc, as they did in Game 2 when Miami made a franchise record 23 threes, and the former went 12/32 from three-point range, overcoming Jimmy Butler's absence, especially with Terry Rozier also sidelined, seems like a mountain too steep to climb, even for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

That theory, validated in Game 3, again held up on Monday night at the Kaseya Center.

Derrick White delivered a career-high 38 points, helping overcome quiet scoring nights from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who registered 20 points and 17, respectively. That's precisely how much the latter needed to become the 11th Celtic to reach 2,000 career points in the playoffs. 

At the other end of the floor, the visitors did a phenomenal job protecting the perimeter for the second straight matchup. After limiting the Heat to 9/28 (32.1%) from beyond the arc on Saturday, the hosts had even more difficulty manufacturing success from three-point range on Monday.

Terrific closeouts and second efforts keyed Boston's ability to take away what Miami needed most. And while the Heat produced 46 points in the paint, they also shot 40.7% from the field, a figure far too low to suggest they compensated for their struggles behind the arc.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, Game 4's developments weren't all positive, as Kristaps Porzingis exited the contest in the first half due to what the team labeled right calf tightness.

Here's more on his injury and White's career night in a deep dive into what stood out as Boston pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination.

1. As one would have expected, the Heat came out launching threes unabashedly in the opening frame of Game 4. Similarly to the first quarter of Saturday's 104-84 Celtics win, Miami actually got good looks early but struggled to find the mark.

As the opening period progressed, excellent closeouts and second efforts like Jayson Tatum closing out to Tyler Herro, leaving his feet to prevent a potential three-point attempt, then recovering to deny a second one, leading to a turnover on an errant pass by Bam Adebayo, Boston stood in the way of the hosts finding their rhythm. They went 2/9 from beyond the arc in the first 12 minutes. 

They also grabbed only one offensive rebound and had no second-chance points. If they're not faring well in either category, it's difficult to see them figuring out how to circumnavigate those obstacles.

2. On the other end of the floor, the Celtics carved up the Heat's zone defense. Whether it was Kristaps Porzingis setting high ball screens to create a runway for someone to attack downhill or step into a three or getting the seven-foot-three center the ball at the basket, Boston repeatedly created quality shots against the two-three and three-two zone.

3. It also helps when Derrick White goes supernova. The former Colorado Buffalo put 13 points on the board by the 4:58 mark and finished the first frame with 16. He was the lone player on either side to score in double digits in the opening quarter.

White did so on 6/8 shooting, including 4/5 from behind the arc. Along with shooting without hesitation, he knifed in for a put-back after corralling a missed three by Jrue Holiday, and he capitalized on Miami not having anyone back to protect the rim, driving in for a layup.

White also had some excellent closeouts that contributed to the visitors playing from ahead and taking a 34-24 advantage into the second period.

4. In a second-quarter scare, Porzingis stepped on Tyler Herro's foot while trying to get around him for an offensive rebound. After hobbling in pain, he headed down the court gingerly.

A few plays later, still moving stiffly, he went into a dribble hand-off with Jaylen Brown, but his right calf tightened up on him. He then asked to come out of the game, putting his face in his jersey in frustration as he went to the locker room.

The Celtics declared him doubtful to return due to right calf tightness.

5. Despite shooting 35% from the field, Boston stayed hot from beyond the arc, burying 4/9 threes (44.4%). The visitors also stayed dialed in defensively, with excellent closeouts helping limit the hosts to 22.7% shooting, including 1/7 (14.3%) on triples.

Their effort on the defensive end was vital to outscoring the Heat 19-12 in a low-scoring frame, giving the Celtics a 53-36 edge at intermission.

While Derrick White had 22 points, pacing all participants, no one else on Boston reached double figures. Bam Adebayo, who registered 12 but struggled to score against Porzingis when the Latvian native was on the floor, was the only member of Miami to do so.

6. While the Celtics cooled off from behind the arc in the third quarter, faring 2/10 from three-point range, they produced 16 points in the paint, and Derrick White added 11 points to his total, giving him 33 in 36 minutes.

Continuing to protect the perimeter to the tune of Miami shooting 3/9 from distance and not finding a reliable source of scoring inside the arc, converting on a measly 37% of its field goal attempts, also led to points in transition like this thunderous flush from Jaylen Brown.

7. There was also a lineup featuring White, Jayson Tatum, Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet, which was productive at both ends of the court.

Their time together featured Tatum finding success at the rim and on a turnaround fadeaway after taking only five shots and scoring eight points in the first half. He matched that output in the third period, helping the visitors build an 81-59 lead entering the last 12 minutes.

8. As the rock fight continued and Miami tried to crawl its way back into the game, the hosts paid the price for helping off the strong-side corner to tag Al Horford on the rim roll. Jrue Holiday capitalized, knocking down an open three, extending the Celtics' advantage to 89-71 with 7:46 left.

After a Herro turnover at the other end, an emphatic flush from Jayson Tatum sent some Heat fans heading for the exits as Boston's lead grew to 20 with 7:19 remaining.

9. However, the hosts responded by narrowing the gap to 13. As the intensity in the arena ratcheted up, after a foul on Patty Mills, as Tatum launched a three, Adebayo stepped towards him, resulting in the five-time All-Star forward landing on his foot and rolling his ankle.

After staying down for a bit, stretching out the afflicted area before heading to the bench, a lengthy review resulted in Miami's star center receiving a flagrant-1.

Al Horford received a technical for bumping Adebayo on the heels of Tatum hurting his ankle. Tyler Herro missed the free throw, though. Tatum went 2/2 at the line, extending the Celtics' lead to 93-78 with 5:04 left.

10. That added cushion helped halt the Heat's momentum as Boston applied the finishing touches on a 102-88 victory to take a 3-1 series lead and push the defending Eastern Conference champions to the brink of elimination.

11. Game 5 between the Celtics and Heat is Wednesday night at TD Garden. That matchup will tip off at 7:30 EST.

Further Reading

Shift in Mindset Fueled Payton Pritchard in Game 3 Win vs. Heat

'Burned Inside': Kristaps Porzingis Bounces Back from 'Worst Game as a Celtic'

Celtics Right the Wrongs of Game 2 to Take 2-1 Lead Over Heat

Kristaps Porzingis Details How Heat Disrupted Him in Game 2: 'I'll Make Sure I'm Better'

Heat's Historic Shooting Leaves Celtics Contemplating: 'We Gotta Respond'

Heat Outmuscle and Outshoot Celtics, Sending Series to Miami Tied at 2

Celtics Bench Stars in Its Role in Game 1 Win vs. Heat: 'An Identity of Our Team'

Jayson Tatum Discusses First-Career Playoff Triple-Double: 'A Beautiful Game'

Celtics Protect the Parquet in Dominant Display in Game 1 vs. Heat

How do the Heat Adapt Without Jimmy Butler? Joe Mazzulla Weighs in


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Bobby Krivitsky

BOBBY KRIVITSKY

Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.