After an uninspiring first half, the Boston Celtics roared back to win a crucial Game 5 to bring the series back to 3-2 against the Miami Heat. Head coach Brad Stevens was quoted during the game saying that it was the first time in the last few that he saw the team play Celtics basketball, and it proved to be enough to force a Game 6.
The superstars will get all of the credit in this one, such as Jayson Tatum’s 31 points and Jaylen Brown with 28 points of his own. However, it was the play of Daniel Theis that needs a huge shoutout from this game. In the first half when the offense was stagnant and without energy, Theis was not able to get into any type of rhythm. Because of that, Stevens tried different types of lineups with Enes Kanter. Theis could have let that negatively affect his second half. Instead, he was able to turn around and have a dominant half getting the Celtics back into this game.
Theis finished the game with 15 points, 13 rebounds (5 offensive), and 3 blocks. Specifically for the second half, he had himself a double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He won the center battle for the Celtics over a dominant Bam Adebayo for the first time all series. In his post-game interview, he said that “everyone was just enjoying being out there,” referring to the team’s second half revival, and it absolutely showed.
The Celtics have a team structure that does not rely solely on the bigs to do the heavy lifting for this team. However, when they do, the sky is the limit for this team.
Daniel Theis through the whole second half took advantage of the holes in the zone becoming more aggressive when he received the entry pass. Normally, it would be collecting the ball in the center of the zone then shoot it out to an open shooter, but Theis on few possessions took the offensive initiative to attack.
It was the defensive end where he really won the front court battle against Bam Adebayo. He again mentioned post-game that “I just wanted to be myself, especially on the defensive end.” He turned up his intensity, switching, rebounding, and not letting the Heat get to loose balls. Theis stressed that the team was attempting to limit the offensive rebounds the Heat were getting with ease in the first half and everyone responded playing Celtics basketball.
This possession here is a perfect example of how Theis played defensively in the second half. It first starts out by Theis switching on Jimmy Butler, staying in front of him making him pass the ball out to Tyler Herro. Then, Theis switches back on to Adebayo to make sure that he does not have deep position in the post. Finally, once Herro drives by Gordon Hayward, Theis does a fantastic job helping off his man coming over to contest the layup at the rim. It was the exact do-or-die mentality that the team needed to get this Game 5 win.
The final factor in Theis’ impressive performance was his rebounding. He came away with 10 rebounds in the second half that were absolutely vital. Theis made it a mission to crash the boards relentlessly so that the Heat would not continue to have second chance points. He crashed the offensive boards as well, gathering three offensive rebounds, and two of those that led to put back layups.
The Celtics still find themselves in a hole. The team knows that they are going to have to find a way to win two more games without any room for hiccups. If they can draw on this second half and understand that they can play much better than this Heat team, then they have a chance to complete this comeback. It is just crucial for players like Daniel Theis to lift up the team by continuing to increase the intensity for a full four quarters. The Celtics must continue to play like it is their last possession.