Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scored 12 first-quarter points. The embattled star also received a technical early in Boston’s must-win Game 5 home outing against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This set the tone for Boston Thursday evening as the team played on a completely different level than the Miami Heat in sending this one back to South Beach for Game 6 Saturday via a blowout 110-97 win.
Coming off a blowout Game 4 victory over Miami to avoid elimination, Boston knew that it had a chance to make history by becoming the first team in NBA Playoff history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit. At the very least, the Celtics put this on the minds of Miami.
We know the history. Teams that fall down 3-0 in a best-of-seven find themselves with a 0-150 record in the NBA Playoffs. Only three series have been stretched to seven games under these circumstances.
After what we saw from both the Celtics and Heat in Boston Thursday night, this is at least on the minds of both teams.
Despite shooting 51% from the field, Miami couldn’t stick with a high-scoring Celtics team. It tallied a whopping 16 turnovers after averaging less than 10 through the first five games. Without Gabe Vincent (17.5 PPG in the series) due to injury, there wasn’t enough to get things done.
Jimmy Butler attempted just 10 shots in a game that the star wing needed to step into a primary scoring role like had done throughout a majority of the playoffs. Taking Vincent’s spot in the starting five, veteran Kyle Lowry scored just five points in 30 minutes of action. Not a single member of the Heat went for as much as 20 points in the game.
This was not close to enough to getting it done against a Celtics squad that saw secondary players step it up.
Marcus Smart (23 points) and Derrick White (24 points) did a lot of damage while combining to shoot 15-of-23 from the field. While neither Jaylen Brown nor Jayson Tatum (21 points each) went off, they were efficient in the blowout win. Meanwhile, Boston turned the ball over just eight times before the benches were emptied roughly midway through the fourth quarter.
Boston’s complete effort coupled with Miami’s struggles on both ends of the court changes the dynamics of this series in a big way.
Miami Heat now in must-win mode heading into Game 6 against Boston Celtics
There have been 135 series go seven games in the NBA Playoffs. Of those, the home team has won 79% of the games. That’s the obvious backdrop.
But when looking at the Celtics’ Game 7 history at home, this is taken to a whole new level. Trailing 3-2 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Playoffs earlier this year, Boston took Game 6 in Philly. It then absolutely destroyed the 76ers by the score of 112-88 in Game 7.
Last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals saw Boston defeat the Milwaukee Bucks at home in Game 7 by the score of 109-81. Boston has lost one Game 7 at home in the Eastern Conference Playoffs since Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the team 41 years ago. That came against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2018.
More than the history, there is something to be said about human mentality. Miami’s 128-102 win in Game 3 seemed to end this series. The Celtics were not prepared to play that game in South Beach. They threw in the towel as the fourth quarter started with Miami up by 30.
First-year Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla took all of the blame amid reports that he could be one-and-done in Boston. “I just didn’t have them ready to play,” Mazzulla told reporters after the game.
Even after that loss, Boston Celtics stars issued a warning to Miami. Marcus Smart’s message was, “don’t let us get one.” Jaylen Brown echoed that by saying, “don’t let us win tonight.”
Boston ended up coming out on top by the score of 116-99 in Miami.
Fast forward just a couple days, and the dynamics have changed big time. Boston has won five consecutive playoff games in Miami dating back to last year.
If the Heat don’t break that streak come Saturday night in South Beach, they could very well be on the wrong side of history after making history themselves earlier in the playoffs.
As for the Boston Celtics, they’d have utmost confidence in their ability to take out Miami at home in Game 7 — leading to a second consecutive NBA Finals appearance and a matchup with the well-rested Denver Nuggets.
Yeah, the Heat are now in must-win territory after Thursday night’s flop against the Boston Celtics.