Three Takeaways As The Celtics Stayed Alive To Force Game 6 Against The Heat

Going into Game 5 on Friday night, the Miami Heat had an opportunity to complete their unexpected postseason run and punch their ticket to the NBA Finals. They’d stunned the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals over the course of four games, proving once and for all that they were no anomaly.

And for the first two quarters of the game, it certainly looked good for Miami. But after a furious second-half rally from a spirited Celtics team that finally found their rhythm, Boston was able to extend their season with a 121-108 win and force a Game 6 on Sunday, where they will try to even the series and replicate what the Nuggets were able to accomplish (twice) out West.

Here’s what we learned from Boston’s win in Game 5 with their season on the line.

A Tale of Two Halves

The Celtics were nowhere to be found in the first half. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker were a combined 4-of-17 to start the game, and Boston looked listless and disinterested, i.e. not at all like a team whose season was on the ropes. Credit the Heat for their stifling defense, as they pestered the Celtics into 3-of-14 from behind the arc through the first two quarters and sent Boston scrambling for answers, but the biggest issue by far was Boston’s lack of energy.

Brad Stevens got so desperate that he even inserted Enes Kanter into the lineup in the second quarter to try to breathe some life into his team, and Kanter did just that, going 4-of-4 in the period to keep Boston within striking distance.

After halftime, it was a completely different story, with the Celtics racing out to a 20-3 run to take their first lead of the game as Miami went cold. The Celtics finally found their rhythm in the third quarter, attacking the defense and not settling for tough three-pointers, where they had been ice-cold in the first half.

As in the previous contest, Tatum came alive in the second half. He was much more aggressive at attacking the paint and drawing fouls, getting to the line eight times in the period. He had 17 points in the third quarter, and the Celtics took a 92-83 lead into the final frame and never let up.

They kept pouring it on from there, with six players in double figures for the night, led by Tatum with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, while Brown finished with 28 points and eight rebounds and Walker chipped in 15 points and seven assists.

Celtics Bigs Came Up…Big

Kanter was the story of the first half for the Celtics’ front line, giving the Cs a much-needed jolt off the bench when he subbed in for Daniel Theis. After playing sparingly this postseason, Kanter made four straight baskets for Boston in the second quarter and helped keep the deficit under double digits.

That would be the extent of his contributions for the night, but apparently it was enough motivation for Theis, who had a huge second half. Theis did a little bit of everything on Friday night on both ends of the court, as he put up 15 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks.

For the Celtics, it took an all-around effort from up and down the roster, which is what they’ll need from here on out if they want any chance of taking the series.

We Got Robbed Of The Duncan Robinson Game

On Wednesday, Tyler Herro gave us one of the all-time great playoff performances by a rookie with his 37-point explosion in Game 4, cementing his status one of the most exciting up-and-coming players in the NBA. And for a while there in the first half, it looked like we might get treated to another one, this time courtesy of Duncan Robinson.

Robinson was absolutely on fire to start the game, scoring 17 points in the first half on 3-of-6 from downtown and slashing his way into the lane for easy layups.

Unfortunately, he would cool off from there as Boston seized control of the game. Robinson would finish 3-of-11 from three with 20 points, spoiling what initially looked like it might be a scoring explosion from the young sharp-shooter, who has already established himself as one of the NBA’s best marksmen.

It was a rough night overall for the Heat in this one. Goran Dragic led the way with 23 points but fouled out with just under five minutes left in the fourth. Jimmy Butler was plagued by foul trouble as well. He finished with 17 points. Miami was frigid from long-range, shooting just 7-of-36 for the night and 45 percent as a team overall.

The Heat will now look ahead to Game 6 on Sunday, where they will try to avoid letting the Celtics even the series. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.