BOSTON — From a series sweep to a serious series, the Boston Celtics are transforming the Eastern Conference Finals.
They’re still in a big hole, but they won easily again Thursday, 110-97, in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, with four of their starters scoring at least 20 points, and are now two wins away from becoming the first team in NBA history to win a series after trailing, 3-0.
Game 6 is at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Miami. The Celtics have won the last two games by a combined 30 points. Boston never trailed Thursday and led by no less than 24 points — it was a 15-point game after the first quarter.
“It just says we have our backs against the wall and stick together and compete at a high level to give ourselves a chance,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said.
The Celtics backcourt of Derrick White and Marcus Smart easily had its best games of the series. They took advantage of the absence of Heat starting goaltender Gabe Vincent (sprained left ankle) and victimized Max Strus and Vincent’s replacement, Kyle Lowry.
White, who opened the Conference Finals as a reserve, started with 24 of six 3s, with two steals. Smart added 23 points (four 3s) and five steals.
“He just plays with defensive versatility and he does a great job paying attention to detail on personnel tendencies,” Mazzulla said of White. And of Smart, he said, “He’s just an emotional key for us. When he is locked up and plays both sides of the ball at a different pace, it kind of gives us our identity and our life.
Jayson Tatum nearly hit a triple-double (21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds and Jaylen Brown added 21 points.) Tatum threw Boston with 12 in the first, including a dunk with 3:18 left that prompted Miami at the second time. From the game. The Celtics were already up 15 by then and the closest the game came was 11 points, in the second quarter.
Neither Bam Adebayo (16 points, eight rebounds) nor Jimmy Butler (14 points) played in the fourth quarter of this blowout. Miami turned to Haywood Highsmith for the first time in this series and he delivered the bench with 15 points, as did Caleb Martin (14 points) and Duncan Robinson (18 points).
Lowry and Strus gave the Heat little (combining for eight points on 3-of-10 shooting). Miami was again a mess with turnovers (16 for Celtics 27 points) and gave up 17 second-chance points. The Celtics, continuing another recent trend, were hot again from 3-point range.
“Their activity level has increased over the last two games, and that’s what you should expect in a competitive playoff series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And then we play in a crowd a bit. There can be good things from this, if we read the game, read the covers, and make the appropriate plays.
“But you have to give them credit for the activity,” Spoelstra continued. “They got us stuck in the paint multiple times with quick hands, stripping, things of that nature. We need to consolidate that. That’s two games in a row. We have to be aggressive and then make the proper plays with proper spacing.
Just one more win would bring this streak back to Boston for an unlikely Game 7 on Monday, with a ton of history on the line as well as a spot in the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
As you know, none of the 150 teams that fell 3-0 in a series have come back to win. Only three teams have even forced a Game 7. Not too long ago, the Celtics were on the verge of being swept away, with fair questions being asked about Mazzulla’s future in Boston and the future of the list as it is.
“Yeah, obviously Game 3 was tough, but I mean, throughout the year, we’ve been connected in the locker room, we support each other, and I was confident that we would come back and compete. “, said White. . “We did that for the last two games.”
On the other side, the Heat are (still) trying to become the second No. 8 seed to reach a final and the first since 1999. They’re 0 for 2 in their first two cracks, and don’t want to see what does 0-3 look like.
“The last two games aren’t who we are,” Butler said. “It happened like this. We stopped playing defense halfway through because we didn’t land the shots we wanted to make. But it’s easily fixable. You just have to go out and play more strong from the jump. Like I always say, it’s going to be all smiles and we’re going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing we’re going to win the next game.
The Celtics look alike
It took the Celtics until halftime in Game 4 to figure things out, but they put up their wall-to-wall masterpiece in Game 5 to give the possibility of a 0-0 comeback. 3 a shocking reality.
Boston’s contested shoot was unsustainably good, but their attention to detail and intensity in all aspects of their identity and plan at both ends came back strong. — Weiss
Boston Basketball Peak
Tatum has finally solved the Miami defense and seems so comfortable drawing doubles and finding shooters. The team moves the ball with speed and determination, and the defensive pressure was just right without being overdone. The one-on-one defense on Butler and Adebayo has been incredible, and Boston nails their spacing in transition on their countless deflections.
This is the pinnacle of Celtics basketball, and they look like they could pull off the greatest comeback ever if they maintain that focus. — Weiss
The Celtics play with intensity
The Celtics had the intensity from the start. On the first game, Smart pushed the ball away from Adebayo and dove downfield to take the ball. From there, Boston forced 15 more turnovers, including five more by Adebayo.
Boston was actually outclassed after opening the game on a 20-5 run, but maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the way. Tatum didn’t have a big goalscoring game but controlled everything with his attacking reads. — King
Why Heat struggled
The Celtics aren’t giving Adebayo to do anything on offense, which is one of the ways this streak has changed. After attempting just seven shots with four turnovers in Game 4, Adebayo had six turnovers on Thursday. Boston collapses on top of him and takes the ball away from him.
Adebayo doesn’t move fast enough or find the open teammate as the double team arrives; partly because the Heat don’t move as much without the ball. On a night Vincent was out, and in a season when Miami often used Adebayo to aid on offense, not getting him started or finding something to counter Boston’s change in defense was a recipe for disaster. took place. — Vardon
(Photo: Winslow Townson/USA Today)