BOSTON — The Celtics were a different team during their Game 5 win over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night.
Instead of allowing Miami to freely jog along its victory laps in Games 1, 2 and 3, Boston began the night as the opening aggressor at TD Garden. The Celtics held the Heat to just five points in nearly three minutes, sparking a 17-2 run in the first quarter, which served as the foundation for a runaway win that the 110-97 final score didn’t reflect.
“Their activity has gone up the last two games and that’s what you have to expect in a competitive playoff series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra explained. “… You have to give them credit for their activity and they jammed us up several times in the paint with quick hands, strip downs, you know, things of that nature. We have to sharpen up. It’s two games in a row of that.”
Reaching back to re-establish their identity, the Celtics relied on their outside shooting, similar to how they did on countless occasions throughout the regular season and exactly how they did in Game 4 in Miami. The Celtics drained 16-of-39 outside shot attempts and limited their turnover total to just nine, which beat out the 13 that the Heat committed, resulting in a spare 27 points for the Celtics.
They even held Jimmy Butler to just 14 points — the fewest he’s scored in the playoffs this season — by pressuring him and Bam Adebayo defensively, forcing the duo to commit a combined eight turnovers.
“They’re playing faster for sure,” Duncan Robinson said. “Shooting more 3’s. It’s a little bit more of their identity they kind of had throughout the season. We’re not surprised by that. Kind of knew that’s what it was gonna be and just gotta make it difficult. Continue to make it hard.”
The Celtics outscored the Heat throughout the first three quarters, and had there not been any garbage time minutes in the end, Miami would’ve been held to zero second-chance points.
“Definitely more of (an) attack in the paint,” Adebayo said.”For me man, we just gotta pick up that sense of urgency, watch film and pick up the basics.”