Celtics catch fire from deep to force Game 6 vs. Heat
Turnovers have turned around the Eastern Conference Finals. Three-pointers threaten to make it go the distance.
The Boston Celtics found their way to the NBA Finals last year with a stingy, opportunistic defense and a steady cascade of three-pointers. It would appear they have captured that combination once again to keep their hopes of a second appearance alive.
Disorganized and distracted four days ago, the Celtics have climbed out of a 3-0 hole with two consecutive wins over the Miami Heat, forcing a Game 6 in South Florida on Saturday.
Final score: 110-97. The Celtics wasted no time building a double-digit lead. They led by 15 at the end of the first quarter and the margin remained 15 or better in the second half until the waning minutes.
The Celtics made 9 of 20 three-pointers in the second half of Game 4 to avoid a sweep and bounce back from a six-point halftime deficit. They also feasted on nine second-half Miami turnovers, committing only two themselves.
Rinse, repeat in Game 5. Starting with Bam Adebayo on the game’s first possession, the Heat turned the ball over five times in the first seven minutes, gifting Boston 10 points off of them. The Celtics, meanwhile, maintained their long-range sharp shooting, hitting 8 of their first 13 3s.
It is the first time the Heat have lost two games in a row this postseason and the recipe for their downfall was identical in both losses: copious turnovers and woeful three-point shooting. Taking care of the ball and punishing the Celtics from deep, conversely, is what they rode to that 3-0 best-of-seven series start.
With Gabe Vincent unavailable after spraining his ankle late in the fourth quarter of Game 4, coach Erik Spoelstra had to start 37-year-old Kyle Lowry, who looked every one of his 37 years. He contributed five points, four turnovers and one assist in 30 minutes, a long way from the 17 1/2 points on 58 percent shooting that Vincent had been providing in this series.
Stat to Know: As disappointing as Lowry might’ve been, the ineffectiveness of the Heat’s best two players, Jimmy Butler and Adebayo, was the real shocker. Butler had a quiet 14 points and a plus-minus of minus-24. Adebayo scored 16 points but had six turnovers.
Play of the Game: Al Horford rebounded the miss of a corner three-pointer by Marcus Smart, rebounded the miss of his own putback attempt and then kicked the ball back out to the perimeter, where it made the rounds until Jayson Tatum buried a three-pointer from deep, giving the Celtics an 18-5 lead.
Quote of the Game: “We always have to stay positive knowing that we can, and we will win this series. We just have to close it out at home” -Jimmy Butler
What’s Next for the Heat: Return to the friendly confines of Kaseya Center, where they are 6-1 this postseason and hopefully will have Vincent (sprained ankle) available.
What’s Next for the Celtics: They handed the Heat their first home playoff loss four days ago. If they maintain the energy and focus they’ve displayed in the last 96 minutes, they could become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after starting the series 0-3.
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” on NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.
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