Miami — The Boston Celtics found themselves behind the Miami Heat by five, on the road, at the end of the first half of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night.
However, the Celtics felt fine. They couldn’t have played much worse in the first half, making 10 turns and conceding nine offensive rebounds to Miami – allowing the Heat to take 14 more shots.
“We didn’t play our best in many ways,” Celtics coach Im Yodoka said. “Sometimes all it takes is one man to get back to his normal game.”
Nobody was playing worse than Jaylyn Brown. He went 2-for-7 from the field and made four turnovers – all in the first quarter.
Then the second half started. And as it happened, Brown became the face of the team’s transformation.
Brown 19 points, 0-half turn – along with 18 second-half points of Jason Tatum – He eventually allowed Boston to open what had been a first-half rock fight, as the Celtics went on to win 93-80 over the Heat, leading Boston to win again on their first trip to the NBA Finals in 12 years.
“Same player,” Brown said from the first half to the second. “It had to be stabilized. That’s it. As the match went on, some of that strength started to wear off, so I opened the game up a bit. I opened the match up for me in the second half.
“I didn’t want to go down. I didn’t want to look past, I think this match was over. My team needed me to come out and respond.
“The first half was s—. He threw it away. [Just] He goes out and plays basketball in the second half.”
It wasn’t clear if Boston would actually be able to follow Brown’s instructions after another ugly basketball stretch in the series for the Celtics in the first half of Game 5. The difference from other periods when Boston was out of the game. However, the bar in this series is that the Celtics did not allow the Heat to unlock the game.
Instead, things were ugly on the Miami side of the ledger. While Tatum and Brown were challenging to go 10 for 33 in the first half, and the Celtics were throwing the ball in, Miami couldn’t hit anything either. Background start from Kyle Lowry And Max Strauss Combined to go 0 against 15 from the field and 0 against 12 from the 3-point range for the game. Jimmy Butlerplaying through a knee problem, finished only 4 for 18. Overall, the Heat 7 finished 45 for a dismal 3-point.
“You should enjoy this,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “You do it. You know, if you want to hack and get a card into the finals, you’re going to have to do some ridiculously difficult things. To get to Boston and find out collectively, those are the feelings and hacks you’ve made that you remember for the rest of your life. Bring this back. The thing is on the 29th. That’s all we talked about there.”
It was a game that, like the rest of the series, would never be called beautiful. But for the Celtics – the team that built their impressive mid-season transformation around a stifling defense – it was the latest example of the physique they’ve been proud of throughout the playoffs.
“I think the mental stress and pressure we put on some teams with our defense has worked and carried us through qualifying at times,” said Odoka. “I’ve seen in the Brooklyn series, guys are starting to wear off. Game 7 [last round against the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis] You are Some slowed down. But constantly throwing all those bodies at people weakens them both physically and mentally, which makes it difficult, as long as we don’t give them easy baskets to move around.
“With our guys, we’re always confident that they’ll keep working and eventually find out.”
Brown and Tatum definitely did it in the second half. After those early struggles, Brown went into the final three quarters without a turnover. And in a match where someone – anyone – would scream for a shot after that first inning of Breakfast on both sides, Brown rose to the occasion in the second half.
He hit the last shot in the third quarter (the mid-range bucket is tough) and the first of the fourth (the three on the wing) to push Boston’s lead double digits forever. He made sure he stayed there by scoring 13 of his points in the final quarter in a 5-for-6 shot.
“Just the guys just settle in, get aggressive, stop turning the ball,” Brown said. “We gave them a lot more shots than we got in the first half. We were only down by five. We knew if we paid attention to it, we’d get some open opportunities and knock them down.
“So keep playing basketball and be aggressive. That’s why basketball takes 48 minutes.”
It was a similar turnaround for Tatum, who repeatedly grabbed his shoulder throughout the first half, as it was clear he had a nerve issue that knocked him out for a brief period in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
But Tatum kept trying to do the sprints for others in the first half, eventually ending the night with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists in over 44 minutes, as he – like Brown – finally settled on a rhythm with the second half leading.
“Yeah, it was bothering me,” Tatum said. “We just found out.
“Obviously they are a really good team. Both teams are playing hard and competing and things like that. But the players love it. [Derrick] whitesignificantly [Marcus] Clever Being there, just being there, and JB made some big shots. Everyone contributed from start to finish.”
Now, the series returns to TD Garden, where Boston—on their sixth trip to the Conference Finals since the last NBA Finals—will have a chance to take that final step in the league championship round.
But during a post-season period that has already seen many twists and turns with the Celtics — including a comeback from the exact same deficit, the Heat found themselves in, 3-2 on the road in Game 6, to beat the Bucks in the Conference semi-finals — you know. Boston that its mission is not over yet.
“The mentality and the talk between us after the game is that we were down 3-2 the last time, we had to go on the road and win Game Six, and we did,” Tatum said. “We can’t believe it’s over. We need to go home like we’re 3-2 down, with this sense of urgency that it’s a game to win, not relax because we’re up.
“It’s possible [for Miami to come back]. Obviously we did in the last series, so knowing that, speaking of that, obviously enjoying this game, but we’re not satisfied knowing we still have things to clean up, we still need to play better. The job isn’t over yet.”
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