Jayson Tatum stuffed the stat sheet with 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Boston Celtics made a second-half comeback to beat the Miami Heat 121-108 to force a Game 6 in their Eastern Conference Final series Friday.
After getting outscored 58-51 and only shooting 40.4 per cent from the field in the first half, the Celtics had a complete turnaround in the second, outscoring the Heat by 20, 70-50, and shooting 50 per cent from the field and managing to attempt 19 free throws to boot.
It was a drastic turn of fate for the Celtics who were facing a win-or-go-home scenario and appeared somewhat lifeless in the first half. Fortunately for them, they managed to kick it into high gear when it was needed.
Here are a few takeaways from the Celtics’ Game 5 victory.
Huge third quarter for the Celtics
Spurred by a 20-3 run in the quarter, the Celtics crushed the Heat in the frame, 41-25, shooting 54.2 per cent from the field and got 17 points alone from Tatum. The Celtics star scored 10 points in the first half, but was an inefficient 3-for-9 from the floor and then came out in the third like his house was fire, going 4-for-6 from the field and getting to the line eight times, converting seven of them.
But while Tatum was the obvious marquee man in the third for the Celtics, the job they did to tighten the screws defensively — in particularly against Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson, who were both fantastic in the first half — really was the key for Boston in the frame as Miami was a dismal 2-for-10 from three-point range and turned the ball over four times.
Additionally, to get back to Tatum, the pressure he managed to put on Miami’s defence with his attacks on the basket helped contribute to the Heat committing nine personal fouls in the third quarter.
This all snowballed into a hell of a period for Boston and, eventually, the game itself.
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Bam and Butler disappoint
Butler had a strong start to the game Friday, scoring 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and five assists in the first half, but pulled a disappearing act in the second half — scoring three points on just 1-for-5 shooting and was a Heat-worst minus-21 in the final half.
Even worse was Butler’s usual big-man partner in crime Bam Adebayo, however.
Adebayo had probably been the best, most consistent Miami performer in this series so far, but on Friday, Adebayo wasn’t looking anything like his usual self, scoring only 13 points and grabbing rebounds eight, along with eight dimes.
He only took 11 shots all night and didn’t look as involved in the pick-and-roll game making his lethal dives to the basket, like he had been doing before.
Obviously, the defence of Boston’s Daniel Theis played a factor in blowing up this action (a little more on this in the next section), but there’s a possibility that the apparent wrist injury he suffered at the end of Game 4 could still have had some adverse effects.
The Daniel Theis game
Of all the Celtics starters, Theis is probably the least-known player but is no less important than any of the others, and Friday it was very apparent.
Theis finished with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds and dominated on the offensive glass, grabbing five there alone, usually off of tip-ins as he was able to consistently punish some of the smaller Miami lineups it trotted out in Game 5.
More importantly, as mentioned before, was the job Theis did on Adebayo in denying the Heat all-star centre from being able to attack the way he prefers.
Defensively, Theis’ quick feet at his size allow him to cover the pick-and-roll near perfectly. Through the first four games, Adebayo has gotten the better of Theis because he is more athletic than the German big man. But Friday, Theis finally managed to make it work by sticking with Adebayo and preventing his dives to the basket — and the threat of the lob play that has consistently been a thorn in Boston’s side.
It was both a little and big thing for the Celtics that played a key part in keeping their season alive.