Celtics trounce Heat in Game 5 of Eastern Conference finals: How Boston’s peak basketball forced Game 6

Celtics trounce Heat in Game 5 of Eastern Conference finals: How Boston’s peak basketball forced Game 6

BOSTON – From a sweep to a serious streak, the Boston Celtics are transforming the Eastern Conference Finals.

They’re still in a big hole, but they won again Thursday, 110-97, in Game 5 over the Miami Heat, with four of their starters scoring at least 20 points, and are now two wins from taking the team first in NBA history to win a series after being down 3-0.

Game 6 takes place at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Miami. The Celtics have won their last two games by a combined 30 points. Boston never trailed Thursday and led by as many as 24 points — it was a 15-point game after the first quarter.

“It just says our backs are against the wall and we’re sticking together and competing at a high level to give ourselves 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 took advantage of Heat point guard Gabe Vincent (sprained left ankle) and victimized Max Strus and Vincent’s replacement, Kyle Lowry.

White, who opened the conference finals as a reserve, had 24 points on six 3-pointers, with two steals. Smart added 23 points (four 3s) and five steals.

“He just plays with a defensive flair and does a great job paying attention to detail in personnel trends,” Mazzulla said of White. And of Smart, he said: “He’s just an emotional key for us. When he’s locked in and plays on both sides of the ball at a different pace, it kind of gives us our identity and our life.”

Jayson Tatum nearly had a triple double (21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds and Jaylen Brown added 21 points.) Tatum led Boston with 12 in the first, including a dunk with 3:18 left that caused a timeout. Miami’s second. of the game. The Celtics were already up 15 by then and the closest the game would come 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 came off 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 again was a turnover mess (16 to 27 Celtics points) and gave up 17 second-chance points. The Celtics, continuing another recent trend, were once again hot from 3-point range.

“Their activity level has been up in the last two games, and that’s what you have to expect in a competitive playoff series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And then we’re playing to quite a crowd. Which can be some good from this, if we read the game, read the coverages and make the right plays.

“But you have to give them credit for the activity,” Spoelstra continued. “They blocked us in the paint a few times with quick hands, stripping, things of that nature. We must support it. These are two games in a row. We have to be aggressive and then make the right plays with the right spaces.”

Just one more win would send this series back to Boston for an improbable 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 behind 3-0 in a series have come back to win. Only three teams have even forced a Game 7. It wasn’t that long ago that the Celtics were on the brink of elimination, with legitimate questions being asked about Mazzulla’s future in Boston and the future of the roster as it is.

“Yeah, obviously Game 3 was tough, but I mean, all year long we’ve bonded in the locker room, we’ve got each other’s backs, and I had faith that we would come back and just compete,” White said. . “We’ve been doing that for these last two games.”

On the other hand, the Heat are (still) trying to become the No. 2 seed. 8 to reach a final and the first since 1999. They are 0-for-2 in their first two at-bats in it, and they don’t want to see what it’s like to be 0-3.

“The last two games it’s not who we are,” Butler said. “It just happened like that. We stopped playing defense halfway through because we didn’t make the shots we want to make. But this is easily remedied. You just have to come out and play harder from the jump. As 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 like themselves

It took the Celtics until the first half of Game 4 to figure things out, but they put together their wall-to-wall masterpiece in Game 5 to make the possibility of an 0-3 comeback seem shockingly real.

Boston’s contested shooting has been remarkably good, but their attention to detail and intensity in every aspect of their identity and scheme on both ends is back in full force. – Weiss

The pinnacle of Boston basketball

Tatum finally solved Miami’s defense and looks so comfortable drawing doubles and finding shooters. The team is moving the ball with speed and determination, and the defensive pressure has been adequate without overextending itself. The individual defense on Butler and Adebayo has been incredible, and Boston is forcing its space in transition from their countless deflections.

This is peak Celtics basketball, and they look like they could make the biggest comeback ever if they maintain that focus. – Weiss

The Celtics play with intensity

The Celtics had the intensity from the start. On the first play, Smart knocked the ball away from Adebayo and ran into the field to clear the ball. From there, Boston forced 15 more turnovers, including five more by Adebayo.

Boston actually got outplayed after opening the game on a 20-5 run, but held a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Tatum didn’t have a big scoring game, but controlled everything with his offensive reads. – King

Why the Heat struggled

The Celtics aren’t giving Adebayo anything to do offensively, which is one of the ways this series changed. After attempting just seven shots with four turnovers in Game 4, Adebayo had six turnovers Thursday. Boston is collapsing on him and stripping him of the ball.

Adebayo isn’t making his move quickly enough or finding the open teammate as the double team comes; in part because the Heat don’t move that much without the ball. On a night where Vincent was out and a season where Miami often used Adebayo to facilitate the offense, the failure to get him going or find something to counter Boston’s defensive shift was a recipe for disaster that unfolded. – Vardon

Required reading

(Photo: Winslow Townson / USA Today)

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