The Celtics were trailing the Eastern Conference Finals 3-0 when they awoke on Tuesday. Now that the score is 3-2, the series is returning to Miami for Saturday’s (8:00 ET, TNT) dramatic Game 6.
In Game 5, the defending Eastern Conference champions came out strong, never fell behind, and survived (again) with a 110-97 triumph.
Boston had a lead of at least 15 points the whole second half, but Miami scored four times in a row in the extra period.
Boston has played much more like a No. 2 seed playing a No. 8 seed after three incredible games.
Although the Celtics are still down in this series, their recent play has made the seemingly impossible seem much more realistic.
“I think once we got ourselves together,” Jaylen Brown said following Game 5, “we all looked each other in the eyes and said hey, we’re not going out like this.”
The Celtics were just the 15th team (out of 151 candidates) in NBA history to force a Game 6 after falling behind 3-0 with the help of the following notes, comments, statistics, and video from the match.
Defense Wins Championships
Defense, so the saying goes, wins championships. The Celtics have also played championship-caliber defense in converting a 3-0 series into a 3-2 series.
The Heat’s offensive performance in Game 4 was the weakest of their 18 playoff games (including the AT&T Play-In Tournament).
And Game 5 was almost as ineffective (87 points on 81 possessions), even after subtracting their nine garbage-time points.
Gabe Vincent, who played in the first four games for Miami and averaged 17.5 points on 58% shooting (including 11-for-22 from 3-point range), was absent.
In the fourth quarter of Game 4, Gabe Vincent injured his left ankle. But the troubles of their rivals were largely the fault of the Celtics.
According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, “their activity level has increased the last two games, and that is what you have to expect in a competitive playoff series.”
Through the first three games, the Celtics’ defense wasn’t atrocious. They had the ability to draw several late-clock situations from the Heat.
Miami had taken *29% of its shots through Game 4 in the final seven seconds of the shot clock.
Game 5 was more of the same, along with fewer 3-pointers made and a lot more errors. The Heat’s 23 3-point attempts were their fewest since before the All-Star break and their fourth-fewest in a game this year.
However, their 13 live-ball turnovers (all committed in the opening three quarters) were tied for their second most in a game this season (100 total games). Their 16 turnovers weren’t their most in the playoffs.
Naturally, live-ball turnovers provide to transition opportunities that greatly simplify the Celtics’ own approach.
While avoiding being taken advantage of in the paint, the Celtics were able to exert pressure on the opposition. In the regular season, the Heat’s offense was ranked 25th, but they are difficult to defend.
Brown observed that “those guys play at an incredible pace.” They play with a pace that is somewhat reminiscent of the Warriors.
They run to their positions. They leap off screens. These pockets are discovered. The move is made.
You must maintain your composure because if you blink, they’ll move on and you’ll lose a shooter for a three-pointer.
Because they will be running all night, you must be vigilant and pursue those men. You must bring your running shoes.
The Celtics are currently 4-0 in these playoffs while facing elimination, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions throughout those four contests.
That is a top-notch defense. that wasn’t present when their season wasn’t at stake.