The Boston Celtics followed up their dominant Game 4 performance with a second straight commanding victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 on Thursday night. Led by Jaylen Brown (25 points, four rebounds) and Jayson Tatum (22 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists), Boston pulled out a 93-80 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the series and push Miami to the brink of elimination.
The Heat actually led the game at halftime, but the Celtics completely flipped the script over the final 24 minutes of action and outplayed Miami on both ends of the floor to close out the contest. In addition to Brown and Tatum, Boston also got some big-time contributions from Al Horford, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Derrick White (14 points, five assists). Now, the Celtics sit just one win away from their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
Boston will look to close out the series in front of their home crowd in Game 6 on Friday night, while the Heat will look to bounce back, extend their season, and force a decisive Game 7. Before moving ahead to Game 6, though, here’s a look at four key takeaways from Boston’s Game 5 victory.
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1. History is on Boston’s side
Game 5 has proven to be a pivotal game in a best-of-seven series, especially when the series is tied at 2-2 after four games. Historically, teams that win Game 5 in that scenario go on to win the series nearly 82 percent of the time. That number is pretty staggering, but it makes sense, as the winner of Game 5 is afforded two opportunities to get one win, while the loser of Game 5 must win two straight to save their season. That’s the situation facing Miami now. They must win two in a row, or their current campaign will come to a close. History isn’t on their side, but it’s not an impossible feat that they face, as it has been done before. Clearly, Boston will want to take care of business at home in Game 6 in order to avoid a do-or-die Game 7 in Miami.
2. Where was Jimmy?
Jimmy Butler has clearly established himself as Miami’s best player and go-to guy, but he has been a no-show for the Heat over the last three games of the series. After scoring just 14 total points in Game 3 and 4 combined, Butler mustered just 13 points in what amounted to be Miami’s most important game of the season. He took 18 shots, but made just four of them, and he connected on just one of his five attempts from long range.
In addition to just missing shots, there was an overall lack of aggression from Butler, illustrated by the fact that he took just four total free throws in the game. This is a guy that can typically get to the foul line at will, but he just wasn’t in attack mode. Maybe he’s dealing with injury issues, or maybe he’s just running out of gas after a long season, but the Heat aren’t going to win many games — and they certainly won’t win the series — with Butler playing as poorly as he did in Game 5.
3. A forgettable game for Lowry, Strus
Kyle Lowry has been dealing with a hamstring injury throughout the postseason, but he played in Game 5 against the Celtics, and he was downright bad. In 25 minutes of action, Lowry went scoreless, as he missed all six of his field goal attempts. He didn’t do much, if any, playmaking either, as he finished the game with zero assists. His highest counting stats were turnovers (3) and personal fouls (5).
It’s clear that Lowry’s not at 100 percent, but few players are at this point in the season, and if he’s out there playing, injury shouldn’t be used as an excuse. If he is hampered that badly, he probably shouldn’t even be out on the floor for Miami, because he certainly didn’t help much on Tuesday night.
It didn’t help Miami’s cause that the player starting alongside Lowry in the backcourt, Max Strus, also missed every single shot that he took. Together, the duo went 0-of-15 from the floor. Per ESPN, that’s the worst shooting performance from a starting backcourt in a playoff game since starters were officially tracked in 1970-71. It’s hard to pull out a win when your two starting guards don’t make a single shot.
4. Heat historically bad from long range
If you were watching this game and felt like the Heat couldn’t throw a beach ball into the ocean, you were onto something. As a team, Miami took 45 3-pointers, and they made just seven of them. That equates to 15.6 percent. That’s the second lowest percentage for a team in NBA playoff history with at 40 or more attempts.
When a team is shooting so poorly from long range, you would think at some point they would alter their approach and try to get more drives to the basket, but instead the Heat just seemed content to continue to let it fly, and that’s certainly part of the reason that they lost.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism