The Boston Celtics have been mediocre at the TD Garden throughout the 2023 playoffs, but the home crowd was rocking during Boston’s wire-to-wire Game 5 win over the Miami Heat.
The C’s once again looked like their old selves on Thursday night, as they were connecting on their triples and moving the ball well. However, if anything was different in Game 5, it was their defense. The Celtics had the Heat locked up for most of the contest, and it was arguably the most harassing defense they’ve played all season.
After falling down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston has now rattled off two straight double-digit victories. The C’s will have to travel to Miami for Game 6 on Saturday night, yet they’ve shown they can perform on the road before.
Still, the Green Team has a lot of work to do in order to get back into this series. But before we look ahead, let’s delve into how Boston dominated Game 5 with three takeaways from the 110-97 win.
3. Celtics starters dominate
For the first few games of the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston’s starters were lousy. Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown couldn’t get it going, center Al Horford couldn’t hit anything and point guard Marcus Smart was inconsistent.
Conversely, in Game 5 the starting five led the way. Four of five starters had 20 points or more for Boston, while no one on the entire Heat roster had more than 18 points.
Jayson Tatum shined as a four-time All-Star should, as he got it done in every facet of the game. He put up 21 points, eight rebounds, two steals and a dazzling 11 assists. The St. Louis native isn’t always a facilitator, yet he showed off his passing abilities when he needed to on Thursday night.
Back-to-back corner 3s by Marcus Smart!
Tatum’s pass on the first 3 was nice!! #BleedGreen pic.twitter.com/JpAF9JOV6R
— FTB VIDS (@anotherFTBacct) May 26, 2023
Brown also played up to his talents in a solid bounce-back game. The two-time All-Star had 21 points and three steals and finally got his shooting rhythm back, as he went 9-for-18 from the field.
Horford scored the least out of the starters, but that doesn’t mean his contributions weren’t significant. He had six points, five assists and a huge 11 rebounds–with five of those coming off the offensive glass.
Celtics look to extend the series in Q2 on TNT! pic.twitter.com/q98aFW7De1
— NBA (@NBA) May 26, 2023
The Celtics’ guards owned Game 5 though, with Smart and Derrick White combining for a whopping 47 points. White was dangerous from deep with a game-high 24 points and a playoff career-high six triples. Meanwhile, Smart dominated on both sides of the ball, tallying an incredible five steals and 23 points.
Marcus Smart tonight:
5 Steals (!!!)
Sets a new career high for most steals in a Playoff game. pic.twitter.com/poIGRIxSVs
— CelticsMuse (@CelticsMuse) May 26, 2023
Simply put, Boston’s starting rotation controlled the game from start to finish.
2. Steals and defense galore
In Game 3, the C’s allowed Miami to score 128 points on 56.8% shooting from the field. Game 5 was a very different story for the Celtics’ defense.
Although Miami still shot 51.3%, it also coughed the ball up 16 times and hit just nine 3-pointers. While self-inflicted turnovers are common, Game 5 was all about the ease with which Boston took the ball from Miami. The Celtics, who averaged just over six steals per game in the regular season, had 13 steals against a generally careful Heat offense. From those turnovers came easy buckets in transition and a bolstered Boston offense.
The Celtics’ starters become the first team in NBA playoff history with 12+ steals and 12+ made 3s in a playoff game pic.twitter.com/ofYvKy4vh6
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 26, 2023
What’s more is that Boston’s defense feasted on some of Miami’s best players. Center Bam Adebayo, who’s usually Miami’s second-best player, had six turnovers in Game 5. Almost every time he tried to go 1-on-1 or find his spot in the paint, the Celtics were there to swarm him and take advantage of his suspect handle.
Additionally, veteran Kyle Lowry had four turnovers and Heat star Jimmy Butler had two as well. Butler has thrived in the TD Garden, yet Boston’s defense held him to just 14 points.
1. Joe Mazzulla deserves a little love
Celtics first-year coach Joe Mazzulla came under fire after his squad went down 3-0, and rightfully so. However, he deserves some credit for his coaching in Game 5.
Mazzulla has taken a lot of criticism for his timeouts in particular, yet he was utilizing them correctly on Thursday night. Whenever the Heat cut into the lead, he was there with a quick timeout to get his team situated. Plus, when the Heat went on a 6-0 run in the fourth quarter and seemed to draw a charge on Boston, Mazzulla applied a successful challenge that then led to a smooth Jayson Tatum jumper. From that point on, the game was over.
Mazzulla and company still have a difficult road ahead of them though, as they need to fight to extend their season again in Game 6. It won’t be easy, but this team still has life.
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