Saturday, May 27, 2023

Celtics force Game 6 back in Miami to extend Eastern Conference Finals

The Celtics are going back to Miami after a 110-97 Game 5 win over the Heat to extend their season.

Boston becomes the 13th team to force a Game 6 when trailing 3-0 in a best-of-7 series and look to become the first to win it for the first time in 150 tries.
"They let us get two, so don't let us get another one," Jaylen Brown said on TNT's broadcast following the win Thursday night.
Momentum shifted back in the C's favor after avoiding get swept in Game 4 and taking advantage of a rockin' TD Garden faithful crowd in a wire-to-wire Game 5 victory.
"We've got the best fans in the league," Jayson Tatum said during his postgame presser. "Up until today, this series, we haven't given them much to cheer for at home. I'm glad our performance matched the energy they were giving us."
The Celtics, who were shooting 29% from 3-point range through the first three games against Miami, are back up to 40% (the C's are 38-2 this season when they reach this mark) after Game 4 and 5. Derrick White (6-of-8), Marcus Smart (4-of-6) and Brown (3-of-5) led the charge from deep Thursday -- as Boston hit 16-of-39 from long distance.
"They got a lot of focus on JB and JT," White said in his postgame comments. "That's empowering me to shoot when I'm open."
White finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, making it the 33rd game this season where he hits 10-plus shots from the floor -- to which the C's are 24-9 this year and 5-2 in the playoffs.
"Big-time player, big-time shots tonight. D-White came ready to play," Brown said. "As soon as they gave him any space, he let it fly, and he got hot from downtown. … His aggressiveness is key."
Meanwhile, the stingy defense also proved to be a key factor, by forcing 16 Miami turnovers and converting them into 27 points. Smart also led the team with five of the Celtics 13 steals on the night.
"One of our assistants put it in great perspective. The season's like nine months long and we just have a bad week," C's coach Joe Mazzulla said to reporters of Boston's poor showing in the first three games. "Sometimes you have a bad week at work. We obviously didn't pick the best time to have a bad week, but we did. We're sticking together and fighting like hell to keep it alive and the guys are really coming together."
According to Brown, there wasn't another team meeting to rally together the troops like there was prior to their Game 4 win, but there is an understanding to what is at stake when it comes to being in the Eastern Conference Finals. 
"I think once we got ourselves together, we all looked each other in the eye and said, 'Hey, we're not going out like this.' We represent the organization, but we also represent ourselves and our family," Brown said. "And obviously we haven't performed the way we felt like we needed to perform. So that Game 4 was the start of that atonement. And now we've been able to pick up off that in Game 5 and hopefully we can carry it on to Game 6."
With the series now 3-2 against Miami, the Celtics have found themselves in familiar circumstances after being down to Milwaukee in 2022 and Philadelphia just nearly two weeks ago.
"For some odd reason, even last year -- we always seem to make it a little bit tough on ourselves," Tatum said. "But what I do know is that you can see the true character of a person, of a team, where things aren’t going well. And our ability to come together, figure things out when it’s not necessarily looking good for us -- it's unlike any team I've been on, this year and last year.

"The core group of guys, being able to respond and I think that's just a [testament] to our togetherness, obviously how bad we want it. We've got a room full of determined, tough guys that when push comes to shove, you look left and right of you and you believe that the guy next to you is gonna do whatever it takes and go down fighting if it doesn't work out."
Game 6 is scheduled for an 8:30 ET tip-off tonight in Miami on TNT.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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