1. Win one to play one more.
That’s the focus for the Boston Celtics.
We said it before: Boston can’t win four straight games in one night. They have to do it game by game. In Games 4 and 5, the Celtics have stayed focused and handled the Miami Heat with relative ease.
This one was a true team effort. Four different Celtics had 21 or more points. Al Horford got on the boards for a game-high 11 rebounds. Rob Williams and Grant Williams contributed good minutes off the bench. The team defense snagged 13 steals, led by five thefts by Marcus Smart.
It wasn’t a perfect game, as Miami still shot pretty well. But after the midway point of the first quarter, the Heat were never really in the game. Boston never trailed and took the lead for good with 8:43 to play in the opening period.
Here’s how the Celtics kept the season alive.
2. Every once and a while, there’s a play early in the game that sets the tone for everything that’s to come. In Game 5, Marcus Smart set that tone by getting on the floor on the first possession:
That play told TD Garden that the Celtics were ready and weren’t messing around.
3. Maybe that runout layup got Jayson Tatum going, but he was on the attack from the jump. When Tatum gets downhill early, it’s generally a good sign for him.
The Heat aren’t connected here. Kevin Love only half-hedges, while Kyle Lowry goes over the Al Horford screen. That’s all the runway Tatum needed to get to the rim (and it should have been an and-1 too!):
Boston’s spacing here is terrific. Also, what in the world is Cody Zeller doing? The guess is he think’s Tatum is going to flip the screen from Rob Williams, but Tatum explodes to the rim uncontested:
4. Jayson Tatum functioned as Boston’s primary playmaker in Game 5. He had 11 assists and some were things of beauty.
This is one of the best passes Tatum has ever made. He sets up the defense perfectly, gets so wide and deep into the paint that he pulls in the entire Miami defense. From there, it’s a gorgeous hook-pass out to Marcus Smart in the corner:
Late in the first half, Tatum again did a nice job to pull the defense to him. This time it opened up Derrick White for a triple:
Smart has become really adept at slipping screens when he’s working the inverted two-man game with Tatum. The forward drops the dime on the guard in the middle of the lane:
With the clock ticking down in the third quarter, Tatum could have taken a couple of different shots here. Instead, he stayed patient and zipped it to Rob Williams for the easy one at the rim:
5. There was a three-minute stretch to open the second quarter where Jaylen Brown took over. This was the old staccato dribble from Brown to set up the step-back three:
A couple of plays later, Brown drove the defender and took the hit at the rim before dropping in the layup:
Boston was outstanding on second chances in this game. Not only creating them, but scoring on them. This pullup three from Brown followed an offensive rebound by Marcus Smart:
6. Derrick White was on fire to start the game. In the first quarter, White hit 4-of-5 shots, including 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
When White tossed in this late-clock fallaway, there was a sense something was brewing:
This is just simple, smart basketball. As Brown goes into his post series, White relocated to the break. That made the passing angle easier on Brown to drop it off to him with the nice find:
When Boston’s offense is humming, they use flare and pin-down screens to get guys shots with regularity. This was a nice flare screen by Jayson Tatum and an on-time delivery from Rob Williams to White:
One of Joe Mazzulla’s adjustments has been to give Tatum and Brown release outlets when they get doubled. This is late in the clock. Miami doesn’t want Tatum taking this shot. He accepts the double and White is there as the release. Because White is feeling it, this one-dribble pullup beats the buzzer:
7. We showed you Marcus Smart setting the tone from the first play. Smart’s play never really waned from that moment. He was locked in for the remainder of his 30 minutes, as well.
The shot-clock is ticking down here, but Smart doesn’t panic. He catches Max Strus leaning on the closeout and gets into the paint for the layup:
Smart was a big part of keeping Boston’s spacing solid. This play starts with Derrick White contesting Jimmy Butler at the rim. It ends with Smart spacing to the corner in transition, and getting the extra pass from Al Horford:
With the Heat sitting in as much zone as they have, Boston has to be willing to step into shots with confidence. This is a good, quick pass by Jaylen Brown and Smart lets it rip without hesitation:
After one of his five steals, Smart got to his spot in the wing and Jayson Tatum rewarded him:
8. Al Horford had almost the perfect Al Horford game. He made things tough on Bam Adebayo, controlled the glass and made a bunch of those extra plays.
No Celtic is better at making the extra pass than Horford is. Look at this spacing here too. When Jayson Tatum is doubled, Horford is lifted into the perfect outlet spot. Bam Adebayo has to close hard to him, so Horford zips the pass to Brown for the triple:
The next play we’re highlighting was simple too, but it was also very LOUD:
Posting up Kyle Lowry is a lot like posting up Marcus Smart: you have a better chance of dislodging a fire hydrant. But Horford goes to work here:
This is another simple, but good example of quick, effective decision making:
9. Rob Williams made three of those ROB! Plays. The ones where you again believe he’s the difference in Boston winning the title or not.
Jimmy Butler has largely destroyed Williams on switches in this series. Not this time:
When your big man wins you the extra shot, you reward him:
This wasn’t Boston’s last basket of game, but it was the capper on the night. And it sums up all the potential that Rob Williams has to be a very special player:
A fake into a one-dribble, pullup push shot? Let’s go!
10. Win one to play one more.
The pressure is all on the Miami Heat now.
Yes, it’ll still be a disappointing end to the season for the Boston Celtics if they lose this series, even with all the comebacking they’ve been doing. But Boston was expected to lose after going down 0-3. They’re playing with house money now.
Miami looks wounded and worn out. They’ve been battling since the Play-In Tournament. Maybe the Heat are running out of steam. They’ve got to close it on Game 6, or things might fully boil over.
It’s important the Celtics stay locked in. That goes without saying, but it’s one game at a time. Within that one game, it’s one possession at a time. String enough good ones together again, and we’ll all be watching a Game 7 in Boston on Monday night.