It just got interesting.
Four nights ago, all hope looked lost for these Celtics. Their flaws were exposed in humiliating fashion, haunting them into a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were stuck staring at what could have been a painfully long summer.
But as slim as their chances looked, the Celtics still believed. They still believed they were the better team than the eighth-seeded Heat. They believed they could come back. They warned not to let them have one.
Now they have two. And now there’s real hope again.
The Celtics finally put everything together in the second half of Game 4 to keep their season alive. On Thursday night, they carried the momentum. They were locked in from the opening tip. They were relentless on both ends for 48 minutes. They refused to let this season end with a convincing 110-97 victory over the Heat in Game 5.
These Celtics just love to play when their backs are against the wall. They forced a Game 6 in Miami on Saturday night, mounting pressure on Jimmy Butler and the Heat. They’re two wins away from making history.
Jayson Tatum scored 21 points and dished out 11 assists, Derrick White scored 24 points on six 3-pointer, Marcus Smart added 23 and Jaylen Brown had 21 for the Celtics, who were in full control for the opening minutes. They led 20-5, then 23-7 in the opening minutes. They never let the Heat take a lead. They never let the visitors have hope that they could clinch a berth to the NBA Finals on their home court.
The Celtics, after what Tatum described as their best defensive game in Game 5, kept it going in Game 5 as they forced 16 Heat turnovers.
Other takeaways from the win:
– TD Garden was as loud as it’s been all season on Thursday night, and especially in the opening minutes as the Celtics played with great energy. But it threatened to be sapped when Tatum was called for a technical after a dunk with 8:43 left in the first. Tatum yelled at an official after the play, presumably arguing for a foul and was given a tech.
But it did nothing to ruin Boston’s momentum. The C’s responded with three consecutive 3-pointers, the last two by Smart, to force a Heat timeout. They went on a 17-2 run after Tatum’s technical to take full control.
Tatum did not seem rattled by the technical foul. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, including another loud one-handed dunk that forced a second Heat timeout of the quarter.
– After their best all-around effort of the series in Game 4, the Celtics picked up right where they left off in Game 5: By hitting 3-pointers and defending at a high level. The C’s forced four turnovers in the opening four minutes, and they made seven of 12 3-pointers in the first quarter.
– With Malcolm Brogdon a bit of a liability due to his right forearm injury, Derrick White stepped up his play in a big way. He scored 11 points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer after a strong Celtics sequence in which Robert Williams blocked a Jimmy Butler 3-pointer on the previous possession.
– The Celtics’ outside shooting cooled down in the second quarter as they made just two of their first nine attempts of the period, and started struggling when the Heat went back to their zone defense after the first timeout. The Heat cut it to 11 on back-to-back buckets from Duncan Robinson midway through the quarter.
But unlike past games, the Celtics didn’t let miss shots affect the rest of their play. They outscored the Heat 13-0 in second-chance points in the first half and forced them into 10 turnovers. The Celtics took the Heat’s punch and responded to push their lead to as much as 20 behind 3-pointers from White and Smart in the final minutes of the half.
– Malcolm Brogdon left Game 5 in the third quarter due to his right forearm injury and did not return. Payton Pritchard took his place in the rotation.