September 26, 2020, 2:18 am
Down 3-1 to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Friday’s Game 5 was a do-or-die affair for the embattled Celtics. Judging from the flow of the game in the first half, you’d think that the Heat were on their way to closing out the series and punching their ticket to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for them, Celtic pride prevented Boston from going gentle into that good night.
A massive 41-25 third quarter, spearheaded by the 17 points of Jayson Tatum, shifted the balance of power in favor of the Celtics. The lack of second-chance points and a sluggish zone defense ended up being the cause of Miami’s undoing and the Celtics just kept on coming, relentlessly attacking the basket over and over, putting the Heat’s defense to the test. The result was telling and the game would end in the Celtics’ favor, 121-108.
With the team’s season on the line, Tatum played like the superstar he’s grown up to be and took over the game. He finished the night with 31 points on 8-of-22 shooting from the field (3-of-10 from downtown), but punished the Heat for their fouls with a 12-for-14 run at the free throw line. He also added six assists and one steal in a team-high 43 minutes on the floor. Tatum had been having trouble sleeping after a disappointing (to him) Game 4 performance. He made sure in Game 5 that he would not have any regrets.
Tatum’s usual partner in crime, Jaylen Brown, was no slouch either as he delivered 28 points (12-of-23 shooting) with eight rebounds and four triples. Two of Brown’s treys came in back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter which helped throw a bucket of ice water to cool off any attempt at a Heat run late in the game.
Then again, you could say that games like these were expected from Tatum and Brown, especially if the Celtics were to come out on top in Game 5. That’s true, but credit also should be shared with guys like Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart, whose efforts as role-players were massive and cannot be overstated. Smart flirted with a triple-double, dropping 12 points, eight rebounds, eight assists with four steals. Theis was active on the glass, finishing with a game-high 13 rebounds which complemented his 15-point, 3-block effort. His double-double was worthy of praise, but a lot of what Theis contributed did not show up in the box score. He was actively setting effective screens for his teammates, allowing them to get good looks at the basket which they then converted into successful scoring attempts.
The Heat imploded in the second half, there’s no other way to describe it. There were spurts where Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, or even Jimmy Butler would try to get something going, but those were isolated attempts and there was no follow-through, at least none that led to a serious run.
Bam Adebayo was noticeably quiet in this one, posting 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists with one steal and one block on the defensive end. Butler fared a bit better with a 17-8-8-1-1 line of his own. Adebayo was owning responsibility for the Heat’s loss after the game, unhappy with the way he played. Butler on the hand, had a different outlook. It was NOT all on Bam but on everyone – which, when you think about it, is quite accurate, to be honest.
Veteran mentor and still-active player Udonis Haslem tried to rally the Heat by giving them an earful of passionate encouragement during a timeout, but his speech sadly did not garner its desired result. The Heat kept on being flat-footed on defense, allowing easy access to the basket on drives by various Celtics players. They tried to move the ball around on offense, but when shots missed their mark, the rebound would more often than not be snatched up by a player in a Celtics uniform.
Dragic led the Heat in this one with 23-4-4 on 8-of-17 FGs and 6-of-7 FTs but the Slovenian Dragon fouled out in the fourth quarter was unable to help with any of the Heat’s failed attempts at last-ditch runs. Duncan Robinson was an active participant in this one, but did most of his damage in the first half, ending Friday night with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, which included three triples.
So, now, we go to a Game 6, which will take place on Sunday. Will the Heat finally close out the series or will the Celtics somehow replicate tonight’s second-half performance and be able to force a decisive Game 7?