Celtics on edge of NBA Finals after icy heat burnt by second-half blitz

After taking two lopsided wins each in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat eventually found themselves in a close battle in Game 5, scoring 42-37 in Miami’s favor after a low-scoring and poor first. half.

Then Boston – finally – found their shooting form and roared to a comfortable 90-83 win to take a 3-2 lead in the series and obliterate Miami’s home field advantage.

They are now just one win away from a first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010, while Miami will have to recover from a nightmarish shooting performance that broke records for all the wrong reasons.

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Thursday 26 May

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With two of the NBA’s best defenses, the two teams were expected to deliver exciting games throughout the series. But those predictions were shredded in the first four games of the series where only one match-up was decided by a single-digit margin.

Game 5 finally seemed to be drawing to a close, after a sloppy first half marked by stuttering fouls and misfires. The Heat’s five-point margin at the half was comfortably the thinnest differential of the series as both teams struggled with rhythm.

Miami started slow, missing their first six shots from the floor in a sign of things to come. But the Boston big names were just as slow – Jayson Tatum was goalless from the floor in the first quarter in a 0-4 shooting.

Tatum averaged 18 first-half points in the first half of this series, but managed only 4 on 1 of 9 field goals at halftime – though he had four rebounds and five assists.

Boston opponent Jaylen Brown also had just six points and four halftime turnovers when the Heat shut down Boston’s attack, with the Celtics scoring just 38.2 percent from the floor.

But Miami failed to capitalize on Boston’s early battle, although there was one positive sign.

The Miami bench underperformed severely in this series and the playoffs in general, but by midway through the second quarter, the bench had outperformed Heat’s starting five.

At halftime, 18 of Miami’s 42 points came off the bench, despite the absence of superstar sixth man Tyler Herro due to injury.

However, the poor quality of the first half did not impress the fans.

But everything changed in the second half – at least for the Celtics. The Heat shot only 4-of-23 field goals in the third quarter as the Celtics boomed and outscored Miami 32-16 in the quarter when they finally threw off their scoring cuffs.

Boston ended the quarter with a score of 10-0 and led 69-58, the game’s first double-digit lead. They extended that lead to 23 when they added 12 more unanswered points at the start of the fourth quarter.

While Heat narrowed that margin, they barely threatened a real comeback.

Boston’s offensive turnaround saw them give away just five sales in the second half compared to 10 in the first half — and Brown had no individual sales in the second half.

Brown finished with 25 points ahead of Boston on 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, while Tatum had 22 points on 7-20 shooting, plus 12 rebounds and 9 assists. It was a remarkable turnaround as they had only collected 10 points in the first half.

“We just got it going offensively, we stopped turning the ball around, which we did a lot in the first half,” said Brown.

MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 25: The Boston Celtics bench reacts to a game against the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter of Game Five of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at the FTX Arena on May 25, 2022 in Miami, Florida.Source: AFP

Meanwhile, Miami missed a franchise-record 38 three-pointers, which were converted in just 7 of 45 attempts. They scored on only 32 percent of the attempts from the floor.

Bam Adebayo had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, while Jimmy Butler had just 13 points on a night when Miami’s attack failed to get going.

PJ Tucker, Max Strus and Kyle Lowry combined only got 11 points, while Lowry’s shooting problems persisted. He didn’t score a single point in six tries, and also had five errors, three turnovers and only one rebound.

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith stated, “I don’t care who you are…if you can’t get shots, anyone can beat you. And that was the Miami Heat tonight.

“They looked like a bunch of construction workers throwing rocks everywhere.”

He added that Miami was clearly struggling due to a number of injuries carried by players.

Smith said Jimmy Butler was “clearly hampered by his knee injury,” while speaking on Lowry that, “we all know he stumbled… he just didn’t have it.”

Meanwhile, sniper Max Strus went 0-for-9 on field goals and is now 0-for-16 in his last two games, giving Smith a full shot at the struggling shooter: “Someone we were excited about… He looked like he belonged in college, that he is not ready for this level, because he was that bad.”

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