- After the Boston Celtics walked into the locker room at halftime of Game 5 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, having produced a second consecutive lackluster first half in a series they trailed 3-1, they knew something had to change. Kemba Walker, exposed in this series for his defensive deficiencies, missed five 3-pointers in the final period.
I'm not sure what Brad Stevens said during his halftime talk but it worked.
It was a directive that Boston took to heart.
Reaching 40 minutes for just the second time in the postseason, he and the Lakers will now get an opportunity to rest up and await their opponent from the east, as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat head for game 6. But he didn't like much of anything about his night and headed back to the hotel following the game vowing that he would find a way to be better in Game 6 on Sunday. Still, his first-half performance shows that he's clearly capable of paying off his current price tag. The last thing the Heat need is going into a game against a Celtics team capable of burying them from long-distance.
The amusing thing is, Miami wasn't even that bad in the second half.
The Heat started 0 for 4 from three-point range Sunday, then made its next five to take a 33-27 lead at the end of the first quarter. I played bad and that can't happen. We'll get better. We had a lot of times where all of us didn't play together - injuries, things of that nature. "They are a heck of an offensive team, a heck of a well-coached team and are hard to guard", said Stevens.
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Friday's game featured three players - Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler for Miami, Marcus Smart for Boston - finishing with eight rebounds and eight assists. They gave away the first two games - or rather they were taken away from them - and when they needed to be flawless, they weren't. We know what's at stake: We lose and go home. Take a deep breath. They answered adversity's knock at the door with a relentless attack on the rim, turned over the ball less than they did in game 4, and were a brick wall defensively.
Tatum had 31 points and 10 rebounds, Jaylen Brown added 28 points and the Celtics shook off a slow first half to top the Miami Heat 121-108 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and stave off elimination. "Frustrated. Give them credit: They've been playing well".
UPDATE 1 P.M. ET FRIDAY: BetMGM opened Boston -2.5 and moved to -3, and while point-spread ticket count is nearly a toss-up, with the Celtics at 51.7 percent, money bet is a very different story. It was frustrating. Not supposed to be feeling good about being down 3-1. "Stuff like that, going to happen - if it happens - not really my concern, I'm not even thinking about that".
Nikola Jokic had 20 points and seven rebounds for Denver.
Tatum added 15 more points in the 3rd, six on 2 3-pointers, helping Boston increase the lead to 14 points at 92-78.
The Celtics used a second-half rally Friday to keep their playoff hopes alive, as they now cling to a 3-2 series deficit against the Heat.