Up by four points to start the fourth quarter, the Celtics needed to play 12 minutes of their best basketball to keep the lead and even the series. On the defensive end they did just that, harassing the Miami Heat and forcing them into difficult shot after difficult shot.
In the end, it was the shots the Celtics didn't make that did them in.
The Celtics played inspiring defensive basketball for 48 minutes in Game 4, but they ran out of gas in overtime of a 98-90 loss to Miami in Game 4 Monday night at TD Garden. The Celtics now trail the series, 3-1.
"It’s frustrating because we had so many opportunities," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
The Celtics created opportunities with their defense, but they struggled to execute their offense after halftime. The Celtics made just 5 of 18 shots in the fourth quarter in giving the lead back to Miami. Luckily for Boston, their defense kept them in the game long enough to set up the fourth quarter's dramatic final minutes.
Delonte West's 3-pointer with 2:59 left tied the game at 81. LeBron James and Ray Allen traded 3-pointers before James put Miami up two with a layup with 48 seconds left. This was one situation where the Celtics needed a score and got it. It took Pierce just seven seconds to tie the game on the other end, driving to the rim for what would be the final points of regulation. The Celtics had the ball with 19.5 seconds left and a chance to win the game, but Pierce forced up a wild shot after Boston's execution broke down on the play.
"We just didn’t execute tonight -- plain and simple," said Celtics forward Jeff Green. "We weren’t in our proper spots, and we didn’t get the play ran properly the way we wanted to.”
Boston's botched final play turned out to be the difference in the game, as the Celtics simply could not match the Heat in the extra period. A gassed Celtics team scored only a pair of free throws and a layup by Pierce in OT. Kevin Garnett missed the only shot he took in the extra frame and finished 1 for 10 for the game.
While Garnett's offensive play surely frustrated Celtics fans, their team did plenty on defense to frustrate James despite the Heat superstar scoring 35 points. Garnett led a team defensive effort that harassed James into shooting 12 of 28 from the floor.
For much of the game, James was involved in a scoring duel with Pierce reminiscent of the duel the two had in the 2008 playoffs when James was in Cleveland. Pierce brought his lunch pail to Game 4, doing serious work in the first quarter. The captain had 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first, outscoring his counterpart James by one. The Celtics shot 67 percent in the first quarter and went to the free-throw line 11 times.
The second quarter was all about the Celtics bench. Nursing a three-point lead after the first , a unit of West, Allen, Jeff Green, Glen Davis, and Jermaine O'Neal actually increased the lead to five, at one point going up by as many as nine points. West ran the show, going 3 for 4 with an assist and two steals as the Celtics outscored a Miami second-unit featuring James. When the starters came back in at the 6:50 mark, the Celtics were up 42-37.
Pierce and James both picked up where they left off and finished the first half with 19 points and 20 points respectively. The Celtics shot 58 percent to Miami's 46 percent in the first half.
The Heat started the third quarter on a 13-6 run and opened up a 63-59 lead. But the Celtics were able to do one big thing in the third: contain James. LeBron scored his only basket of the quarter on Miami's last possession of the period. Limiting James helped the Celtics maintain that 73-69 lead after three.
Pierce finished as Boston's leading scorer with 27 points. Rondo played 38 minutes with his injured elbow and had 10 points and 5 assists.
"It’s not going to get any easier," said Allen. "But that’s what makes it that much more special if you can pull it off."
There isn't much time for the Celtics to wallow in their defeat. The Celtics and Heat are back on the court Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at American Airlines Arena in Miami.
"Our goal is to win the next game," said James. "Our home floor, our home fans, they have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. We are going to come out with the same game plan from the last four games and give our fans what they want to see.”
Final: Heat 98, Celtics 90 Just no offense for the Celtics here in overtime. Miami's up. 3-1.
1:24 OT, Heat 92-88 Wade's three was ruled a two. Garnett hits two free-throws. The Celtics badly need a score here.
2:00 OT, Heat 93-86 Wade hits a 3-pointer. The Celtics still haven't scored in overtime.
3:41 OT, Heat 90-86 Miami scores the first two baskets of overtime on buckets by James and Chris Bosh. LeBron now has 35.
End 4th quarter, Tied at 86 Pierce holds the ball, drives, and throws up a tough runner off glass too strong. We're going to overtime.
19.5 seconds 4th quarter, Tied at 86 Pierce ties it with a driving move to the basket, then stops James on the other end. Celtics ball.
48.0 seconds 4th quarter, Heat 86-84 Allen and James hit 3-pointers, Rondo misses a layup, and James gives the Heat the lead back with a tough move in the post.
2:59 4th quarter, Tied at 81 Boston's offensive execution has been atrocious, but they're getting stops. Finally, one of the Celtics' jump shots falls as Delonte West ties the game with a 3-pointer from the corner.
5:40 4th quarter, Celtics 78-77 Celtics having trouble scoring until Paul Pierce steps back and drains one over James. Both teams have gone small -- Bosh and Garnett are the tallest players on the court. The Celtics continue to use Rondo, Allen, and West as guards.
9:14 4th quarter, Celtics 75-71 Jeff Green picks up his second foul on what looked like good defense on James. These are huge minutes here for Green.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 73-69 This one's going to come down to the finish. James scored his only basket of the third on Miami's last possession of the quarter. Jermaine O'Neal's played 24 quality minutes for Boston.
1:57 3d quarter, Celtics 71-65 The Celtics are making a killing in the bonus. That's 19 fouls for Miami to Boston's 12.
2:52 3d quarter, Tied at 65 This game is getting good. Mike Bibby wraps up Glen Davis ahead of the field and Baby drops like a ton of bricks. This is playoff intensity, folks.
4:08 3d quarter, Heat 63-61 Two great defensive plays from Kevin Garnett, a deflection leading to a fast-break basket and a dive for a loose ball leading to another possession.
4:57 3d quarter, Heat 63-59 Good timeout for the Celtics. It's certainly not out of hand, but the Celtics need to get better execution. It's clear the C's are trying to get Kevin Garnett involved. That's a good thing. But the shots KG's getting are contested. Run your offense and trust what comes out of it.
10:22 3d quarter, Celtics 55-52 Celtics run a play to get Ray Allen open to start the first half. Chris Bosh just picked up his first personal.
Halftime, Celtics 53-50 The Celtics are halfway to tying this series. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 19 points, dueling with LeBron James (20 points). But James is 7 of 14 and Pierce is 6 of 9. Pierce's efficiency means other players can get theirs, too.
The Celtics could use more from Kevin Garnett (5 points) and Ray Allen (4 points) respectively.
2:14 2d quarter, Celtics 47-46 Glen Davis called for a moving pick on Mike Bibby, negating a drive by Rajon Rondo.On the other end, Kevin Garnett plays rough with James Jones, and Jones retaliates with an elbow, right in front of the official. Stupid play. Unlike in Game 1, the Celtics are the instigators and the Heat the retaliators tonight.
6:50 2d quarter, Celtics 42-37 Pierce and Garnett coming back in after the bench increased the lead from three to five points.
8:50 2d quarter, Celtics 40-31 The second unit is playing great for the Celtics, Delonte West and Jeff Green in particular. Green is clearly irritating LeBron James. Udonis Haslem picked up two quick fouls and a technical. This unit may not always be pretty offensively, but they can and should harass people. And when the scoring comes too, it's a huge bonus for Boston.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 31-28 Pierce finishes the quarter with 14 points. James leads Miami with 13. Somebody get Ray Allen a shot. He's 0 for 1.
1:21 1st quarter, Celtics 27-22 Paul Pierce is really going to work. He's blown by LeBron James twice, and he's abusing whoever else the Heat put on him. Pierce has 12 early points.
2:21 1st quarter, Celtics 23-20 Shaq's doing a decent job clogging up the middle, but he's picked up two quick fouls trying to stop penetration by Wade and James.
3:31 1st quarter, Celtics 21-16: Miami is already in the bonus as Chalmers and Bibby both have two fouls. Chalmers just tried to press Rondo full court and picked up his second personal.
5:27 1st quarter, Celtics 16-11: Celtics fans give their team a standing ovation. The C's are shooting 75 percent and holding Miami to 38-percent-shooting. They're playing with the same energy they started Game 3 with. And they're making it hard for James and Wade. Also, Chris Bosh is 1 of 5.
7:37 1st quarter, Celtics 11-9: Flagrant-1 foul on Jermaine O'Neal on a drive by LeBron James.
10:17 1st quarter, Celtics 9-2: Another great, energetic start for the Celtics. Paul Pierce finishes off a fast break with an and-one. Rajon Rondo's already got a rebound and an assist. So far so good for Rondo.
Pregame: Ready to go here at TD Garden. Feel like we'll know a lot about Rajon Rondo within the first three or four minutes.
Joel Anthony gets the start at center for Miami over Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Let's get it.