BOSTON — From a series sweep to a serious streak, the Boston Celtics are turning the Eastern Conference Finals.
They’re still in a big hole, but they easily won Game 5 at the Miami Heat, 110-97, on Thursday, four of their starters scored at least 20 points, and they now become the first team with two wins. NBA history for winning a series after trailing 3-0.
Game 6 is at Miami on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Celtic have won their last two games by 30 points. Boston never trailed Thursday and led by as many as 24 — a 15-point game — after the first quarter.
“Our backs are against the wall, we’re sticking together and we’re competing at a high level to give us a chance,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said.
The Celtics’ backcourt of Derrick White and Marcus Smart had easily their best games of the series. They were missing starting guard Gabe Vincent (sprained left ankle) with the Heat missing Max Struss and Vincent’s replacement, Kyle Lowry.
White, who started the conference finals as a reserve, finished with 24 points on six 3s with two steals. Smart added 23 points (four 3s) and five steals.
“He plays a defensive versatility, and he does a great job of paying attention to the details of personnel tendencies,” Mazzulla said of White. And he said of Smart: “He’s just an emotional key for us. When he locks in on both sides of the ball and plays at different paces, it gives us identity and life.
Jayson Tatum nearly had a triple-double (21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds and Jaylen Brown added 21 points.) Tatum added 12 points for Boston, which sparked Miami’s second lead with 3:18 left. of the game. By then the Celtics were already up by 15, and the game could have been 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 the series, and he came off the bench with 15 points, as did Caleb Martin (14 points) and Duncan Robinson (18 points).
Lowry and Struss gave the Heat little (combining eight points on 3-of-10 shooting). Miami again had turnovers (16 to 27 Celtics 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 been up in the last two games, which is what you should expect in a competitive playoff series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Then we play a little bit in a huddle. Maybe some good things come out of that, if we read the game, read the coverages and make the appropriate plays.
“But you have to give them credit for the execution,” Spoelstra continued. “They blocked us in the paint a lot of times with quick hands, strip-downs, things of that nature. We have to raise it. Two games in that streak. We have to be aggressive and then make the appropriate plays with the appropriate spacing.
Just one more win would bring the series back to Boston for an improbable Game 7 on Monday, along with a ton of history in the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
You know none of the 150 teams that trailed 3-0 in a series ever came back to win. Only three teams have even forced a Game 7. It wasn’t that long ago, when the Celtics were on the brink of being swept, and legitimate questions were being asked about Mazzulla’s future in Boston and the future of the roster.
“Yeah, obviously Game 3 was a tough one, but I mean, the whole year we’ve been connected in the locker room, have each other’s backs, and I’m confident we’ll come back and compete,” White said. . “We’ve been working on that these last two games.”
The Heat, on the other hand, are (still) trying to become just the second No. 8 seed to reach the Finals and first since 1999. They’re 0-for-2 in their first two cracks, but no. It remains to be seen how 0-3 feels.
“The last two games we haven’t been,” Butler said. “That’s how it happened. We were half-hearted defensively because we weren’t making the shots we wanted to make. But this is easily fixable. You have to come out and play hard from the jump. Like I always say, it’s all smiles, knowing we’re going to win the next game and keep it very, very consistent.
The Celtics look like themselves
It took the Celtics until halftime of Game 4 to figure things out, but they put together their wall-to-wall masterpiece in Game 5 to make a 0-3 comeback shockingly real.
Boston’s contested shooting was unsustainably good, but their identity on both ends and their attention to detail and intensity in every aspect of the scheme. – Weiss
Peak Boston Basketball
Tatum finally solves Miami’s defense and is more comfortable drawing doubles and finding shooters. The team moves the ball quickly and decisively, and the defensive pressure is just right without overpowering themselves. The individual defense on Butler and Adebayo has been incredible, and Boston has nailed its gap in replacing their numerous departures.
This is the pinnacle of Celtics basketball, and if they maintain this focus, it looks like they could pull off their best comeback ever. – Weiss
The Celtics play with intensity
The Celtics had intensity from the start. In the first game, Smart knocked the ball away from Adebayo and dove on the court. From there, Boston forced 15 more turnovers, including five more by Adebayo.
Boston actually went out on a 20-5 run to start the game, but held a comfortable margin the rest of the way. Tatum didn’t have a big scoring game, but controlled everything with his offensive plays. — King
Why did the Heat struggle?
One of the ways this series will turn around is that the Celtics didn’t give Adebayo anything to do on offense. After attempting just seven shots with four turnovers in Game 4, Adebayo had six turnovers on Thursday. Boston collapses on him and takes the ball away from him.
Adebayo didn’t make his move fast enough or find an open teammate due to a double-team coming; In part, because heat doesn’t move as much without the ball. On a night with Vincent out, and a season where Miami often uses Adebayo to facilitate the offense, failure to get him going or Boston’s failure to deal with a changing defense is a recipe for disaster. — Worden
(Photo: Winslow Townson/USA Today)