Boston Celtics

Celtics-Cavs takeaways: Holiday helps C's grind out tense Game 4 win

Jrue Holiday is heating up at the perfect time for Boston.

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The Boston Celtics are one win away from their third consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

It was far from their prettiest performance, but the C's escaped Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with a Game 4 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday to take a 3-1 series lead. It was a hard-fought win despite the Cavs playing without their leading scorer Donovan Mitchell, who was ruled out with a left calf strain.

Boston fell behind 8-2 to open the game but answered with a 19-2 run and finished the first quarter up seven points. Cleveland kept it close and eventually pulled ahead early in the third, though its lead was short-lived. The C's took a 10-point lead into the final frame and survived a late Cavs run to earn a 109-102 victory.

Jayson Tatum (33 points) and Jaylen Brown (27 points) led the Celtics in the scoring department. Jrue Holiday also stepped up with 16 points while playing his typical tremendous defense.

With Mitchell sidelined, Darius Garland paced the Cavs with 30 points. Max Strus had 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, but it still wasn't enough to overcome Mitchell's glaring absence.

The Celtics will look to close out the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals on their home floor Wednesday night. First, here are three takeaways from their Game 4 win.

Another Jrue Holiday 'masterclass'

Jaylen Brown defined Holiday's terrific Game 3 performance as a "masterclass." Jayson Tatum called Holiday the "glue" that keeps the Celtics together.

Holiday stepped up with another masterful performance on both ends of the floor in Game 4. As great as Brown and Tatum were, the veteran guard was the difference-maker.

In the first quarter, Holiday focused on playmaking with four assists and zero shot attempts. He changed it up in the second, scoring seven points in the first two minutes of the frame and entering the half with 10.

Holiday stuffed the stat sheet with five rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block in the first half.

Holiday made several clutch plays down the stretch when the Celtics needed him most. On a night where Derrick White (three points, 1-6 FG) wasn't at his best, the other half of "The Stock Exchange" took care of business.

Holiday finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (4-8 3-PT), seven boards, five assists, three steals, and one block in 43 minutes.

The Jays lead the way

Both of Boston's superstars were outstanding for the second consecutive game. Jayson Tatum set the tone, and Jaylen Brown came through with yet another efficient shooting performance to help put the C's on the brink of an East Finals berth.

Tatum picked up where he left off with a whopping 16 points in the first quarter, the most he has scored in any quarter this postseason and the most he has ever scored in the opening quarter of a playoff game. He finished the half with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Tatum continued to silence his critics with his second straight 33-point performance. His excellent night was eerily similar to Game 3.

  • Tatum in Game 3: 11-25 FG, 2-8 3-PT, 33 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists
  • Tatum in Game 4: 11-25 FG, 2-8 3-PT, 33 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists

According to Celtics stats guru Dick Lipe, it's the second time in Tatum's career he's had back-to-back 30-point, 10-rebound, five-assist games.

As for Brown, the three-time All-Star remains incredibly efficient on the offensive end. He kept the C's afloat with nine of their first 13 points in the third quarter and helped seal the victory in the game's final minutes.

Brown made nine of his 15 shots and seven of his nine free throws to finish with 27 points. He hit a dagger 3-pointer with just over a minute left to extend Boston's lead to eight.

The Jays combined for 60 of the Celtics' 109 points. This was their second straight game with 25 points apiece and the 15th time the duo has accomplished that feat.

Too close for comfort

A win is a win, but make no mistake, there are some issues the C"s will look to iron out before Wednesday's Game 5 at TD Garden.

Boston's 10 first-half turnovers resulted in 16 points for Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Cavs dominated in transition just as they did in their Game 2 win. They shot 11-of-25 from beyond the arc in the first half with Max Strus accounting for five of those 3s.

The Celtics struggled to put the Cavs away even with Mitchell sidelined. Cleveland responded to each of Boston's runs, including in the fourth quarter when the C's watched their 15-point lead disappear amid a 12-2 Cavs stretch.

Fortunately for the C's, they were able to cut down on the turnovers in the second half. That likely saved them from another inexcusable loss.

According to coach Joe Mazzulla, it was as simple as telling his team to "pass to the guys with the green jerseys."

That strategy will be key to finishing off the series on Wednesday.

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