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For two-and-a-half quarters in Game 5, the Celtics and Heat played one of the grimiest basketball games in recent memory.
Then the Celtics stopped playing grimy basketball just long enough to take a 20-point lead, which propelled them to a 93-80 win over the Heat. It wasn’t pretty, but the Celtics can boast a 3-2 advantage in the series with a home game looming at TD Garden and a shot at the NBA Finals on the line.
Here’s what happened in real time.
0:00 – The Celtics have won some impressive games during this playoff run, but they haven’t won ugly like this before. They keep proving they can find different ways to win, which is the mark of a team that can make a lot of postseason noise.
93-80 final. Game 5 is at TD Garden on Friday.
1:32 – And a tough floater by Jaylen Brown rattles around and falls through. That will do it. The Celtics are going to be one game away from the Finals. After his disastrous first half, Brown finished with 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting.
2:09 – Two free throws by Tatum just pushed the lead to 15, and Heat fans are flooding out of the arena.
Of course, Heat fans have been known to flood out of the arena a little too early before.
3:04 – The Heat keep pushing. They cut the Celtics’ lead to 13 and have missed a couple of 3-pointers that would have trimmed it even further. The Celtics are definitely slowing it down, and you can understand why since a bucket or two would probably end the game … but the Celtics need to score that bucket or two.
4:59 – The Heat made a minor push as Bam Adebayo finally found some rhythm in the post, but the Celtics answered quickly. The Heat are running out of time.
5:22 – Jaylen Brown (again).
8:13 – Jaylen Brown just buried two more 3-pointers, including a deep one over Jimmy Butler. Again, you simply can’t say enough about his response given his first half. The Celtics’ lead has eclipsed 20.
9:35 – The Celtics just broke this game open. 3-pointers by Brown and Tatum pushed the lead to 17, which — given the tenor of this game so far — feels a lot more intimidating than any 17-point lead has any business feeling.
11:54 – Jimmy Butler, who is 3-for-13, started the fourth quarter by air-balling a wide-open 3-pointer.
0:00 – The Celtics outscored the Heat 32-16 in the third quarter, in large part thanks to a 10-0 run to end the period sparked by Brown. He put together a huge response to his first-half struggles, and the Celtics have the first double-digit lead of the game as a result.
1:17 – Brown just put together two enormous possessions — he drove baseline and dished to Grant Williams for a corner 3-pointer, then hit a step-back mid-range jumper. He has zero turnovers in the second half.
2:44 – The last two minutes felt like a bit of a missed opportunity for the Celtics: Jaylen Brown and Al Horford both bricked decent looks from deep, and the Heat are headed to the free-throw line after a timeout with a chance to cut the lead to one.
The Celtics have gotten most of their offense this quarter in transition as the Heat crash the glass aggressively with a small lineup. If the Celtics can end possessions in a timely manner, fast-break points are there for the taking.
4:31 – Victor Oladipo failed to hit the rim on consecutive 3-point attempts. The Heat are now 5-for-33 from deep, which was the kind of total we expected to see from the Bucks last series. Celtics lead by six.
5:42 – Coming out of the timeout, the Celtics have two bigs on the floor, while the Heat have five perimeter players. This will be a fascinating stretch.
5:42 – The Celtics’ offense seems to have picked up a bit — Tatum has seven assists after finding Marcus Smart for a 3-pointer, and they are going inside to Al Horford a little more. Meanwhile, their defense has the Heat in prison.
All of that, and the Celtics are up one with Horford going to the line after a timeout. They lead 52-51 more than halfway through the third quarter. This is a grimy basketball game.
8:45 – Two quick fouls for Marcus Smart at the start of the third quarter, and he suddenly has four which is (obviously) a troubling development for the Celtics.
9:30 – Decent offensive start for the Celtics, but they continue to miss 3-pointers. Williams is back on the bench.
12:00 – Very concerning for the Celtics: Robert Williams is not on the bench or on the court to start the second half.
0:00 – Halftime score: Heat 42, Celtics 37.
Again, the Celtics are right there but are absolutely playing with fire. The Heat have muddied up the game well, and as a result, they have nine offensive rebounds (which simply shouldn’t happen given the Celtics’ size advantage) and a 12-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Celtics have to clean a lot of things up. This game is winnable both ways.
2:36 – Tatum has four points, four rebounds and four assists in the early going, and he’s 1-for-8 from the field after picking up his second foul charging into P.J. Tucker. Just an ugly, ugly start offensively for the Celtics, who are 3-for-13 from the 3-point line.
3:04 – The score is 36-32!
4:45 – The Celtics really would be sunk without Derrick White, who just floated in yet another drive. He’s up to 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting. The Celtics are going at Duncan Robinson mercilessly on the offensive end.
6:33 – Five live-ball turnovers by Jaylen Brown in 13:36 of action.
EDIT: The box score has him credited for four, which simply is not accurate!
EDIT (x2): Here’s the explanation.
8:03 – And … now they are no longer scoreless. Better yet for the Celtics: They broke their scoreless stretch with a comfortable-looking 3-pointer by Tatum. The Celtics desperately need him to get going.
8:26 – The Celtics are scoreless in the first 3.5 minutes of the second quarter and are playing with fire a bit.
0:00 – Well, that first quarter was … something. The Heat lead 19-17 after Gabe Vincent made a mid-range jumper. The Celtics survived a 1-for-8 start by Tatum and Brown (with four turnovers by Brown) thanks to their defense as well as White, who was 3-for-3 from the field with six points and two assists.
The Heat, meanwhile, have four steals and five offensive rebounds in the first 12 minutes.
The Celtics need to be careful. Based on the rest of the series, the first 12 minutes favored the Heat significantly.
2:37 – Jaylen Brown continues to struggle with his handle (he’s been stripped twice already, and he missed a euro-step layup in transition), but he continues to knock down spot-up 3-pointers. Tatum, meanwhile, is 0-for-4. He was short on yet another 3-pointer.
5:18 – What a start for Derrick White — he’s knocked down two floaters and had a beautiful pass to Al Horford in transition, completing a perfect fast break. When White is aggressive and confident, the Celtics’ offense gets a shot in the arm. So far, that’s huge — White and Robert Williams have given the Celtics offense around the rim as they miss jumpers.
6:00 – Playing doctor remotely here, but Tatum is short on everything early. His shoulder looks like it might be bothering him.
8:15 – Scary moment for the Celtics as Jayson Tatum appeared visibly bothered by his balky right shoulder. Derrick White went to the scorer’s table, but Tatum shook him off. He just went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line.
10:30 – The Celtics are absolutely daring Jimmy Butler take any jumper he wants, dropping far back on the pick-and-roll and going under every screen. They do not seem concerned about his mid-range barrage in Game 1 four contests later.
– If you’re looking for one stat that tells the story of much of this series, here it is: In Game 4, the Heat scored just 65.7 points per 100 possessions in half-court sets. That’s a disastrous total. The Celtics would be hard-pressed to keep the clamps that tight, but it does show how different the game is when the Heat aren’t able to get out in transition against the Celtics’ stalwart defense (and demonstrates the impact of Robert Williams around the rim).
– Wednesday’s game will be the 10th in a row in which the Celtics play with one day off in between contests. Both teams have started referring to this series as a war of attrition.
“You start to minimize as much as you can in shootarounds and any time on court,” Udoka said. “You want to have their energy there and their legs there, so a lot longer film sessions. You know what the other team is doing and vice versa, but it’s just fine-tuning a few things and then letting the guys get what they need, trusting that they’ll get what they need to stay sharp and stay ready but also stay rested.
“We’ll shave down some of the physical on-court activity and do a little more mental preparation.”
The Celtics, for all their myriad nicks and bruises, are healthier than the Heat — Tyler Herro will miss Wednesday’s game with a groin injury, while Jimmy Butler continues to play with mysterious knee soreness.
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