The Boston Celtics came out of halftime in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night and didn’t look like the same team that had gone into the locker room.
The Celtics put together a second-half transformation to beat the Miami Heat, 93-80, shaking off a sluggish first half –in which they scored 37 points but only trailed by five– to overtake their opponent.
After struggling in the first half, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown found their star form over the final 24 minutes while the Celtics continued to to swallow up Miami’s lackluster offense.
But for Celtics coach Ime Udoka, none of that was the most important factor in helping Boston take a 3-2 series lead and put it on the precipice of the NBA Finals. Instead for Udoka, the biggest difference was something that he has harped upon all series.
“We weren’t playing our best in the first half in a lot of ways,” Udoka said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes is one guy to get back to his average game. But across the board, just too many turnovers, too many offensive rebounds, second-chance points. Things that we’ve emphasized, and with that being said, they had (42) points at the half. We felt we were in good shape if we just cleaned up turnovers, limit them. They had 22 more shots and all that. So, small things like that.
“It helps obviously to get some of our guys going offensively, but what’s more important is that we cut down the turnovers. Cut them in half, only five in the second half and only eight second-chance points. That’s where you get the result.”
The Celtics being able to limit their turnovers in the second half allowed them to surge ahead, especially in the third quarter as Boston outscored the Heat, 32-16, in the frame.
The Celtics also managed to survive allowing 18 offensive rebounds and were bailed out by a putrid shooting performance from the Heat. Miami went 7-for-45 (15.6%) from beyond the arc.
Either way, protecting the basketball and securing rebounds is a good recipe for the Celtics to continue to follow as they try to close out the series on Friday night at TD Garden. Game 6 is scheduled to tip-off at 8:30 p.m. ET.