cool under pressure pic.twitter.com/ucW8s2n9a7— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Celtics vs. Heat score, takeaways: Boston cruises over Miami to force Game 6 in NBA Eastern Conference finals
Boston is attempting to become the first NBA team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit
The Boston Celtics once again staved off elimination Thursday night after beating the Miami Heat 110-97 in Game 5. Boston never trailed, and put together a masterful game on both ends of the floor to force a Game 6. Boston had four players finish with at least 20 points, led by Derrick White's 24 points, followed by Marcus Smart with 23 points. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown added 21 points each. After struggling to connect on 3s for most of this series, guys like Smart and White were pouring it on from downtown and Miami just couldn't keep up.
The Heat had five scorers finish in double figures, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Celtics shot incredibly well for most of the game. Turnovers were also a major killer for the Heat, who committed 16 on the night. Miami still leads the series 3-2, but after back-to-back dominant games from the Celtics, the pressure is on the Heat to close out this series at home Saturday night.
A complete game from the Celtics
This was without a doubt the best game Boston has played in this series. That's not an incredibly difficult bar to clear considering up until two days ago they hadn't won a game against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Still, Boston came out in attack mode from the jump, and never let up over the course of the game. It wasn't just one aspect of the game they excelled at, it was everything.
After shooting just 32.5% from 3-point territory through the first four games of this series, Boston shot 41% from downtown in Game 5. Derrick White and Marcus Smart did most of the heavy lifting in that category, combining to go 9 of 12 from beyond the arc. Jaylen Brown also had the ultimate bounce back shooting game from deep, connecting on 3 of 5 from long range, a much-needed boost after combining to go just 3 of 25 from 3-point range in the first four games of the series. That 3-point shooting was a result of great ball movement from Boston, especially in the first half where they were whipping the ball around the perimeter and finding the open guy off dribble penetration.
On defense, Boston was aggressive and forced Miami into 16 turnovers, which resulted in 27 points. They were fighting for every 50-50 ball, got out on shooters and made life difficult, primarily for Bam Adebayo who accounted for six of Miami's 16 turnovers. The Celtics showed tonight why so many people picked them to win this series, but they're still playing with their backs against the wall heading into Game 6.
Miami's hot shooting cooling off
The reason Miami's run to the Eastern Conference finals has been so surprising is because of how mediocre this team looked for most of the regular season. There's a reason they finished as the eighth seed in the East, and lost their first play-in game to the Atlanta Hawks. During the regular season Miami was not a good 3-point shooting team. In fact, the Heat were amongst the worst in the league, ranking 27th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (34.4%). But the tide turned in the playoffs, and the Heat have been the second-best 3-point shooting team this postseason behind the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets. That hasn't been the only reason that the Heat are still just one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals, but it surely has made a major difference.
In this series that has been especially true, with Miami shooting 42% from deep through the first four games of the East finals. However, in the last two games, the Heat have gone 17 of 55 from 3-point range, or 30%. That's a significant drop off, and for a team that relies heavily upon that 3-ball falling, it's been the difference in each of Miami's last two losses. When guys like Max Strus, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin aren't connecting on 3s, it changes what the Heat can do on offense. It changes what looks Jimmy Butler is able to get, because if his teammates aren't knocking down those shots then defenders are collapsing on him.
The Heat will need to hope that this mini dry spell wears off on Saturday, because we've seen in back-to-back games that if Miami isn't knocking down 3s, then they're getting blown out.
Boston on brink of NBA history
There's still Saturday to take care of, but if the Celtics manage to comeback and win this series, they would be the first team in NBA history to win after being down 3-0. It would certainly make for a great story, and with the way Boston is playing it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. In the last two games the Celtics have played like a team that finally figured things out, and finally figured out how to beat this Heat team. Boston will need to do it twice more if they want to put their name in the history books, but their two wins are more indicative of the team that everyone picked to win this series before it started.
Our physicality on defense was key during our 110-97 victory in Game 5. pic.twitter.com/nphTBtnvwf— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
one game at a time ✅ pic.twitter.com/IGvaC1F2Ql— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Big night all around for @Dwhite921 👏🏽 pic.twitter.com/C6lEJtH0dJ— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
"We got a lot of love for each other, top to bottom," says Derrick White.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
keep shifting that energy ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/66mzQAWp2N— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
"We're locked in. Looking forward to Game 6."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Al Horford shares his thoughts on our W tonight ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ArV1gUBSZc
Joe Mazzulla says we've been "playing connected, physical basketball" over the last two games.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
We need YOU, #HEATNation‼️— Kaseya Center (@KaseyaCenter) May 26, 2023
Saturday night it’s going down for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals - https://t.co/WwaCZ3JSGo pic.twitter.com/g041Oyc4kA
Going back home for Game 6 on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/DwUKX1PINu— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 26, 2023
That's two ✅✅#UnfinishedBusiness pic.twitter.com/0jmVpTwPT6— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
#CelticsWin pic.twitter.com/940uGedOJ8— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
floaters are part of the Time Lord scoring package too 🎯 pic.twitter.com/WlCY8yyA6M— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Heat starters may be done for the night
With Boston up by 20 points, it doesn't look like we'll be seeing the Miami starters for the rest of the game. So that means Boston should go on to win this game and force a Game 6 in Miami on Saturday.
Boston struggling to score in the fourth
That Tatum jumper was Boston's first of the fourth quarter, which would be a bigger concern if the score was closer. Still, though, with the way this team can squander leads you still want to keep your foot on the gas to close out this game.
Haywood Highsmith having high-value minutes tonight
While the Heat are in a major deficit, Highsmith as been one of the few bright spots tonight. He replaced Kevin Love in the starting lineup a the start of the second half, and he's hit some big 3s to cap off runs for the Heat that forced Boston to call timeouts. He'll surely get bigger minutes in game 6 if Miami loses this one.
12 minutes to go pic.twitter.com/3eQmxHPnBr— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 26, 2023
12 minutes from a Game 6
It was a much improved third quarter from the Heat, but the Celtics didn't cool off and now carry an 18-point lead going into the fourth quarter. It's not impossible, but with the way Boston is playing, it doesn't seem likely that Miami comes back in this one.
Q4 up next pic.twitter.com/zsp2Rw6Rqb— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
#NEBHInjuryReport Malcom Brogdon (right forearm soreness) is doubtful to return.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Miami can't get any stops
The offense has looked better for the Heat, but it hasn't mattered much when the Celtics are still scoring nearly every trip up the floor. The Heat need to tighten up defensively if they want to get back in this game. The zone defense hasn't worked like it did earlier in this series.
Celtics have their biggest lead of the series at 21 points
Just a few days ago it was looking like Boston would get swept in this series, and yet here they are beating the Heat by 21 points and on track to pull to within one win of tying this series up.
attacking action 💥 pic.twitter.com/oTYWS1cMjq— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
attacking action 💥 pic.twitter.com/klY7e15vM8— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Miami still struggling with turnovers
There were nine turnovers for Miami in the first half, and they already have three in this third quarter. It's been an especially rough night for Kyle Lowry who has accounted for four of those mistakes, with Bam Adebayo also committing four turnovers of his own. It's an uphill battle from here on out for the Heat, and these turnovers certainly aren't helping.
.@CouzinStizz showed out during halftime tonight 🎤 pic.twitter.com/J3oIrkDCRU— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
✅ DWhite buzzer beater— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
✅ Fired up Truth pic.twitter.com/R8fwKotgt6
back after a quick breather pic.twitter.com/qhxRAmW1Gu— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 26, 2023
Time to regroup. pic.twitter.com/KnimF3peLz— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 26, 2023
Celtics up 61-44 at halftime
In a win or go home game the Celtics came out strong in the first half and are up 17 points on the Heat. Jaylen Brown is having his best game of the series with 15 points, Derrick White has caught fire from deep on 4 of 5 from downtown, and Jayson Tatum has 12 points on 5 of 10 from the floor. The Heat are playing aggressive on defense and shots are falling on the other end, and they're playing some great basketball right now.