Celtics thrash Heat to keep NBA championship hopes alive
Boston hit 16 3-pointers in Thursday’s dominant 110-97 win over the Miami Heat to help the Celtics survive their NBA championship race.
For the second game in a row, the Celtics fought off elimination, closing a best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals lead to 3-2 thanks to a live broadcast win.
Miami will get another chance to close it when they play Game 6 on Saturday. The Celtics will try to take another step towards becoming the first NBA team to overcome a 3-0 deficit and win a best-of-five playoff series.
“The only thing that can stop us is us,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said in an on-court interview.
In front of an enthusiastic, raucous crowd at the TD Garden in Boston, the Celtics looked like the favorites until the start of the series—before the upstart Heat number eight won the first two games in Boston and then embarrassed the second seeds in game three. .
The Celtics’ four starting players had over 20 points, with Derrick White leading the night with 24 points as he made six of eight attempts from three-point range.
“Got a good look and was able to knock them down and just dealt with it,” said White, who said the Heat’s defensive focus on Brown and fellow star winger Jason Tatum gave him more room to act.
Marcus Smart added 23 points and had five steals, while Brown and Tatum each scored 21 goals.
More importantly, the energetic Celtics drove the Heat to 16 turnovers, leading to 27 points for Boston.
They had 17 second chance points compared to Miami’s seven.
“We were a tougher team today,” Brown said. “We set the tone from start to finish.”
Boston was locked in at both ends of the floor from the start of the game, taking a 23-7 lead in minutes.
After Tatum was whistled for a technical foul at 8:43 in the first quarter, the Celtics responded with three straight 3s.
Tatum scored 12 points in the first quarter and Brown scored 12 points in the second.
Meanwhile, Heat talisman Jimmy Butler struggled to gain momentum, scoring eight points in the first half to finish the game with 14 points, his highest-scoring playoff game. He sat out most of the fourth quarter.
Duncan Robinson led the heat with 18 points off the bench. Bam Adebayo scored 16 points but had six assists.
Kyle Lowry, who started as point guard after Gabe Vincent was ruled out with a sprained ankle, scored five points on four turnovers.
“We just have to play better,” Butler said. “Start the game better, on the starters, make it harder for them.
“They’ve been in rhythm since the beginning of the game,” Butler added. “But we are always going to stay positive, knowing that we can and will win this series. We just need to lock her up at home.”
Butler said the Heat allowed their shooting struggles to influence the intensity of their defense.
“But it is easily fixable,” he said. “You just have to go out and play harder from the jump.”
The Heat, who won the NBA title in 2006, 2012 and 2013, still need one more win to reach their seventh NBA Finals.
Boston, whose 17 NBA titles are the most tied with the Los Angeles Lakers in history, last won it all in 2008 and lost last season’s championship series against the Golden State Warriors.
The series winners will play Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets, who defeated the Lakers in four games to reach the NBA Finals for the first time.
White said the Celtics are expecting a big test in Miami on Saturday.
“The crowd will participate in this. It won’t be easy,” he said. “It will take 48 minutes of fighting, scraping, scraping, and we have to find a way to win.”
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra wasn’t worried that two big losses had demoralized his team.
“Who cares about the mood?” Spoelstra said. “We have a rough group. This is a competitive series. You always expect things to be difficult in the conference finals.”
© 2023 AFP